Could your AutoCAD files be going to an email address in China without your knowledge? They may be, according to security software developer ESET. The firm announced, “Recently the worm, ACAD/Medre.A, showed a big spike in Peru on ESET’s LiveGrid (a cloud-based malware collection system utilizing data from ESET users worldwide). ESET’s research shows that the worm steals files and sends them to email accounts located in China.”
ESET senior research fellow Righard Zwienenberg characterized the malware as “a serious case of suspected industrial espionage.” He explained, “After some configuration, ACAD/Medre.A sends opened AutoCAD drawings by email to a recipient with an e-mail account at the Chinese 163.com internet provider. It will try to do this using 22 other accounts at 163.com and 21 accounts at qq.com, another Chinese internet provider.” Continue reading
A year after the release of AutoCAD for Mac, Autodesk decided to take a bigger bite of the Apple market. This week, the company is releasing not only an updated version of AutoCAD for Mac but also AutoCAD LT for Mac and AutoCAD WS for Mac.
“Since the release of AutoCAD for Mac last year, customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, further validating the need for professional design and engineering software on the Mac platform,” said Amar Hanspal, senior vice president, Autodesk Platform Solutions and Emerging Business. “Bringing AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD WS to the Mac shows our continued commitment to making design more accessible for an ever-greater number of people to shape the world around them.”
According to the announcement, “AutoCAD LT for Mac follows common native Mac application user interface guidelines, with a familiar Apple menu bar together with a number of workflow-based palettes. AutoCAD LT for Mac also supports native Mac OS X behavior, including Cover Flow navigation and Multi-Touch gestures.”
Licensing options for AutoCAD for Mac now includes network licensing. AutoCAD LT is not available for network licensing.
Venturing Beyond Professional Market
Whereas the company’s flagship drafting and drawing program AutoCAD remains a professional title, its lighter, nimbler cousins AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD WS can comfortably fit into the prosumer market (which straddles the consumer and professional markets). AutoCAD WS, the company’s DGW viewing and markup app, has been available for some time for Apple iPhone and iPad users and Android users. The latest version released is intended for Mac machines running Apple OS X Lion. The software is free.
The company continues to distribute AutoCAD for Mac through its reseller channel, but it is also experimenting with selling products through Apple app store. Autodesk has been selling its free and modestly priced products, such as AutoCAD WS for iPhone and iPad and Autodesk SketchBook Mobile, through the App Store for some time. However, distributing AutoCAD LT (priced $899) through App Store is a gamble for the company, as App Store buyers are more accustomed to purchasing products with micro-pricing (for instance, $1.99 for a song, $4.99 for a game). Depending on the success of its experiment with AutoCAD LT on App Store, the company is expected to push more semi-professional and consumer-usable software titles through this venue. In addition, Autodesk plans to offer Mac-compatible titles through Amazon.com, starting September 1.
Offering its titles through Apple App Store and Amazon.com may be an educational experience, both for buyers and for Autodesk. Apple App Store, for instance, doesn’t support software subscription — a method Autodesk has been using to peddle some of its most popular titles. For the version of AutoCAD for Mac offered through Amazon.com (available for subscription licensing), Autodesk can’t rely on resellers to provide technical support, so buyers will need to use a mix of resources (Autodesk technical support, online training center, blogs, and discussion groups) to master the software and troubleshoot.
The move to go beyond its traditional distribution channel (Autodesk authorized resellers) and venture into consumer-friendly territories reflects the company’s aspiration to explore the outskirts of professional market. A few months ago, Autodesk released 123D, a lightweight 3D design program based on its direct-editing technology Inventor Fusion. The product targets tinkerers, hobbyists, craft makers, and homegrown inventors — all part of the do-it-yourself movement fueling online commerce at sites like Etsy and attendance at trade shows like Maker Faire. This month, Autodesk acquired Instructables, an online portal where ordinary people share project ideas and collaborate.
“Passionate, creative people want communities to support and encourage their endeavors,” said Samir Hanna, vice president of Consumer Products at Autodesk. “As a result of this acquisition, Autodesk will host a unique ecosystem that combines inspiration, accessible 3D software tools and fabrication services so anyone can be empowered to express themselves creatively.”
Looking to Merge Windows and Mac Versions
In the long run, the company plans to reduce the distinction between Windows and Mac versions of AutoCAD, making them much more interchangeable. Laying the groundwork for this vision, the company now allows you to activate a copy of AutoCAD for Mac using the same licensing key on a Windows version. (In other words, if you have purchased a Windows version of AutoCAD, you can download a Mac version, then use the same key code printed on your Windows product box to activate the Mac version.)
In addition to selling AutoCAD as an independent title, Autodesk also includes the product with many of its industry-specific suites, such as Autodesk Design Suite (for general design), Autodesk Product Design Suite (for mechanical engineering and industrial design), and Autodesk Building Design Suite (for architecture and construction). By default, buyers get a Windows version of AutoCAD. However, the new dual-platform activation method will give suite buyers access a Mac version of AutoCAD without having to purchase another license.
When you were a kid, you probably designed and built a number of warehouses and factories in LEGO sets (like I did). Can you imagine designing a real factory in a similar fashion? Just pick standard factory components (like conveyer belts, guardrails, rollers, and so on) from a box, snap them onto a gridded floor, link the pieces together, and see your assembly lines and machines take shape right before your eyes. That’s more or less how you’d build a virtual factory in Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2012, a bundle that includes Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD, 3ds Max, and more.
With the suite, you can create standard factory components from AutoCAD blocks, or you can start with ready-made components included with Autodesk Inventor. The version of Inventor in Factory Design Suite is slightly different from standard versions. It has a Factory tab, which lets you easily insert blocks, overlay DWG floor plans, and export DWG drawings of your layout.
You can start your layout with an empty factory floor in 3D view or a 2D DWG layout that serves as guide. If you’re starting from a DGW sheet, you can specify in your snapping options to snap dropped items to the sketch. The factory pieces you place on the floor will automatically snap and orient themselves in a way that makes sense. (You won’t, for instance, find two conveyer belts snapping to each other at a 90-degree angle, because that won’t permit a smooth material flow. As logic dictates, they’ll fit into a straight line, or they must be joined by an arc-shape segment.)
In some cases, you’ll see a component thumbnail, but the component is marked as a cloud item. That means the component is not in your hard drive yet; you’ll have to download it from a remote Autodesk server. One reason Autodesk has decided on this approach may be to keep the installed library at a manageable size. This way, only people who need these less-commonly used items will download them. And even then, they’ll download only the specific pieces they need, not the entire catalog or library.
You can also insert machines, custom-equipment, structural frames, rigs, and other items you’ve designed as part of your factory. Even if they’re assemblies, you can drop them, move them, rotate them, and position them as if they’re individual pieces. While in Factory mode (mostly for layout), you can easily move into the Edit mode (for geometry edit) so you can modify a particular piece. Once your edit is done, a single click will return you to the Factory mode with the updated part. If you’re happy with the layout, you can produce a DWG file, or update one you’ve been using as guide. The operation will automatically launch AutoCAD Architecture.
Inventor gives you the option to visualize your working view in realistically rendered mode, complete with ray-tracing and environment maps. This allows you to see how the mockup will look once installed in physical space. If you need to impress a client with a sophisticated fly-through, animation, or glossy image, you may use Autodesk Showcase or Autodesk 3ds Max to create them (both included in the suite). For advanced studies, you may use Autodesk Navisworks (included with the Ultimate edition of the suite) to layer 2D sketches, 3D models, and point cloud data into a single environment for clash detection and movement simulation.
Factory Design Suite is a bundle consisting anywhere from five to eight titles (priced $5,495 for Standard, $6,495 for Premium, and $9,995 for Ultimate). But the pack is much more than a collection of programs. It contains thoughtful, specialized features (like the Factory tab and ready-made factory components in Inventor) that address the entire factory design workflow, from 2D plan and 3D layout to stylized visualization. It also offers something you may not be accustomed to getting in a professional software suite — the ease and delight of a LEGO set.
A Note on the Hardware Used for Testing Autodesk Factory Design Suite: The suite was tested on a system on loan from HP. It consists of a HP Z600 workstation and a HP ZR30w display. The system comes with dual 3.2 GHz Intel Xeon 5672 processors with 24 GB RAM, reinforced with a NVIDIA Quadro 4000 GPU. The desktop tower is housed in a tool-less chassis. If you need to swap out graphics cards or add expansion cards, you can easily remove the side panel without using screw drivers. When adjustments are done, you can snap the panel back into place.
In Factory Design Suite, you may simultaneously work in CPU-intense engineering apps and graphics-rich rendering programs, often passing data back and forth among several open programs. Z600′s multicore CPU structure (a total of six computing channels available) is powerful enough to handle multiple programs with no significant performance degradation. In rendering operations with Autodesk Showcase or 3ds Max, NVIDIA’s graphics boost speeds up preview updates and cuts down rendering times.
Z600 comes with HP Performance Adviser, an app that scans your system, identifies the software installed, and recommends the best configuration for each program. If your drivers are outdated or incompatible with an app, Performance Adviser will issue alerts and prompts. The application also gives you a visual view of system resource and memory use.
The ZR30w display is mounted on a rotatable arm with easy tilt, allowing you to connect monitor and power cables without strain or discomfort. The 30-inch screen gives you a lot of display space. It makes a difference when you’re looking at detailed, ray-traced renderings or juggling a series of programs, each showing large clusters of factory components.
HP Z600′s price starts at $1,599. High-end configurations can get up $13,700 or more.
For more, watch the video review below:
Perhaps you’re primarily an AutoCAD user, wondering if you should tinker with Autodesk SketchBook Designer to add some flair to your DWGs. Perhaps you’re a mechanical designer using Autodesk Inventor, thinking about wowing your clients with some renderings and animations created in Autodesk 3ds Max. If so, you may like Autodesk’s latest sales approach for its 2012 portfolio.
This March, Autodesk introduced a series of suites — bundles of software selected with specific workflows in mind. To list each bundle with its breakdown, along with different editions available, will stretch this blog post beyond what’s acceptable. So you can go check out each bundle at Autodesk’s designated mini-site.
- Autodesk Design Suite, centered around AutoCAD.
- Autodesk Product Design Suite, centered around Inventor.
- Autodesk Building Design Suite, centered around Revit.
- Autodesk Entertainment Design Suite, centered around 3ds Max.
- Autodesk Factory Design Suite, centered around enhanced AutoCAD and Inventor.
- Autodesk Plant Design Suite, centered around AutoCAD Plant 3D.
Most of these suites come in three editions: Standard, Premium, and Ultimate, priced progressively higher for the added products you get.
Premium and Ultimate Max
Autodesk’s latest bundle pricing appears to offer more bangs for your bucks (or more code for your cash). The Premium Edition Design Suite, for example, includes AutoCAD ($3,995), Autodesk SketchBook Designer ($495), Autodesk Showcase ($995), Autodesk Mudbox ($745), and Autodesk 3ds Max Design ($3,495). Bought separately, these products would cost more than $9,700. Bundle pricing is $4,995.
Similarly, the Premium Edition Product Design Suite includes Autodesk Inventor ($5,295), Autodesk 3ds Max Design ($3,495), AutoCAD Mechanical ($4,495), Autodesk Showcase ($995), Autodesk SketchBook Designer ($495), Autodesk Vault (price unknown), and Autodesk Mudbox ($745) — a lineup that, if bought separately, would cost you more than $15,000. Bundle pricing is $6,495.
Digging deeper, you’ll probably notice a few common characteristics. At Premium and Ultimate levels, Autodesk 3ds Max is included as the de facto visualization software. Though not apparent in the published breakdown of the suites, you’ll find that Autodesk Inventor Fusion’s editing methods have gradually found their ways into the bundles’ geometry-editing tools.
Reclaiming Lost Grounds with SketchBook Designer
The role of SketchBook Designer seems to be to counter the encroachment of vector-raster drawing-editing programs. Not satisfied with line drawings produced in AutoCAD, some users resort to Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, ACDSee’s Canvas, Corell Draw and others packages to give their lines and arcs artistic treatment. With tools to create and edit stylized Splines and apply gradients and colors, SketchBook Designer may reclaim grounds lost to these graphics packages. Furthermore, concept drawings created in SketchBook Designer’s Splines will be easier to manage in other Autodesk packages like Autodesk Alias, laying the groundwork for complex surfaces.
Factory-Ville on Cloud Nine
Many of these suites contain workflow-specific features not available to those who purchase the listed titles separately. The Factory Design Suite, for instances, offers standard factory components (such as conveyor belts and containers) you can drag and drop into your 2D layouts. The items are preconfigured to snap to existing factory elements, so designing a production facility could be as simple as arranging digital LEGO blocks on a floor plan.
A set amount of these factory components get installed to your Autodesk content library, but the rest lives in the cloud, a remote server accessible online. They’re downloaded to your local drive as you begin selecting them for use in your plan. This eliminates the need to deliver a bloated content library with the installation files. It also lets Autodesk periodically review, refresh, and add to the downloadable library. In the future, Autodesk may facilitate the exchange of user-created content through a community portal.
Eco Material Advisor
One area where SolidWorks has a head start over Autodesk Inventor is in sustainable design development. The introduction of SolidWorks Sustainability Xpress, first as a plug-in to SolidWorks and later as an integral part of the software, marked SolidWork’s dive into CAD-integrated sustainable design. The simple, straightforward tab gives users the ability to explore a design’s environmental impact (measured in carbon emission, energy use, air pollution, and water pollution) based on choice of material, production method, and supply source destination.
Now, Autodesk is releasing its own sustainability tool, dubbed Eco Material Advisor. The tool is the outcome of Autodesk’s partnership with Granta, which specializes in material data. In its debut version, Eco Material Advisor will first appear in Autodesk’s 2012 portfolio. It’s expected to let you estimate energy use, CO2 footprint, water use, and materials cost based on your 3D design.
Like SolidWorks’ Sustainability tool, Eco Material Advisor will let you compare the environmental impact of different design alternatives (for example, one version in steel, another in PVC, another in cast iron), by using one as the baseline. This approach lets you experiment with different supply chain, manufacturing, and design variables, then pick the greenest option.
What used to be a technology preview, Autodesk Krypton, will soon appear in 2012 products as a series of meters, always ticking in the background to keep track of the energy use and cost of your design as you make changes. The feature is expected to become available not just for Autodesk software users but also for SolidWorks and Pro/ENGINEER users.
Unresolved Pricing Questions
According to Hilde Sevens, a director of product management at Autodesk, “Subscription price is not going up, so please put that out of your mind.”
Autodesk press office clarified, “The customers who currently are on a subscription (say, for AutoCAD Inventor Professional) who would be receiving the Product Design Suite instead — for these customers, there is no change in their subscription pricing despite now being on subscription for many more products. The subscription prices for the suites themselves, however, are higher than current subscription prices for standalone products (which is designed to reflect the greater value of subscription across all the products in the suite).”
At present, it’s unclear if subscription customers who receive an automatic upgrade to a suite will subsequently be required to pay a higher subscription fee (to reflect the greater number of software titles they can now access). It’s also unclear if certain titles will remain available for subscription individually, apart from the suite offerings where they appear.
In my view, it’s critical that Autodesk continues to give buyers the option to purchase its most popular titles — AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, and 3ds Max, to name but a few — individually. Suite deals sound sweet for those who need additional software, but if those who don’t need it are pressured to gobble it up, the offer could quickly turn sour.
The Sum of All Bundles
For the deep discount you get alone, Autodesk’s suite pricing may indeed strike some as tantalizing. Some bundled titles like SketchBook Designer are consumer-friendly and easy to learn, so you can easily become productive with them in no time. Other titles like Autodesk 3ds Max and Navisworks may require you to invest a fair amount of time and training in them before you can become proficient. Choosing the right bundle, or analyzing your own workflow to decide if it warrants additional titles, may be the best way to safeguard yourself from inadvertently purchasing shelf-ware.
It is worth noting that Autodesk’s 2012 suites are much more than a collection of titles with heavy discount. In addition to what you would normally get from the listed titles, you get workflow-specific interoperability among bundled titles and additional features (a good example is the version of AutoCAD and Inventor included in the Factory Design Suite). So if you’re thinking of investing in a few more complementary tittles to your collection by opting for a bundle, you’ll find that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
Note: This blog post is updated on April 7 to reflect the pricing information received from Autodesk.
Can AutoCAD WS become Autodesk’s own Acrobat-equivalent for DWG files? It certainly looks like the company is pushing it as its universal DWG viewer. This week, Autodesk gives people one more reason to consider its mobile app as the de facto DWG viewer and editor for those on the go. AutoCAD WS now supports DWG files published from Autodesk Inventor.
A casual search by the keyword Autodesk on iTunes and Apple App Store reveals AutoCAD WS, Autodesk Inventor Publisher Viewer Mobile, and SketchBook Mobile, among others. Originally codenamed Project Butterfly, AutoCAD WS began as a web-hosted, browser-based DWG viewing and editing program on Autodesk Labs. Released alongside AutoCAD for Mac in August 2010 (a comeback after 18 years’ absence from the Mac OS), AutoCAD WS and AutoCAD make a formidable combo for rivals trying to unseat AutoCAD. With device-level support for iPhone and iPad via mobile apps (which is different from supporting mobile devices via web browsers), Autodesk made DWG markup a truly portable operation, allowing those in the field — manufacturing plants and construction sites, for instance — to interact with design data hosted online.
After publishing the DWG file from Autodesk Inventor, you can email the file to someone or post it somewhere online so iPad and iPhone users can access it. To use AutoCAD WS, you need an Autodesk log in (the same credentials for Autodesk University or Autodesk Labs will work). If you receive your DWG file in your inbox in your mobile device with AutoCAD WS installed, you’ll be prompted to use AutoCAD WS to launch the file.
The latest release, AutoCAD WS Mobile 1.2, marks the debut of certain new features:
- Setting line width for the free lines you use to sketch or scribble text;
- Tapping to select objects and text for copying and pasting;
- Magnified snap areas; and
- Displaying dimensions in inches and feet, as created in the original file.
Autodesk’s rival Dassault Systemes develops and distributes, also for free, a 2D drafting program called DraftSight, but the software is currently not available for mobile devices. Dassault Systemes offers 3DVIA Mobile, an application for viewing models published in common CAD and 3D formats, for $1.99 on iTunes.