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Autodesk + Instructables: For Makers? 77

ptorrone writes "MAKE magazine has published an in-depth look at what the recent acquisition of Instructables by Autodesk means for makers and the DIY movement. MAKE suggests it wasn't about getting the millions of members or projects at Instructables or upselling Autodesk tools. Instead, the acquisition was more about creating many Instructable-like communities around Autodesk's new free and trial tools including their 3D printing site and service, Autodesk123D."
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Autodesk + Instructables: For Makers?

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  • It would be worse... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Saturday August 06, 2011 @12:03AM (#37004046) Homepage

    There are three companies that would be worse than Autodesk in this role:

    1. DSS.
    2. Altium.
    3. Microsoft.

    I mean, of all things, Autodesk? The guys who make poorly designed, expensive CAD program that only keeps its market dominance because of its semi-documented, closed file format? One that ported its engine to OSX but "forgot" to bring any of the modules that make their software in any way useful?

    That never ever touched Linux (and is worse than Solidworks with Wine)? That abandoned all Unix ports of their software many, many versions ago? (well, Pro/Engineer and CATIA bested them by abandoning an existing Linux port, apparently just to spite users).

    That never did, nor ever promised to give a fuck about any "community" other than corporate managers who make purchasing decisions?

    That never ever open sourced anything?

    That thinks, anyone sane would use crippled "free" tools specifically made to frustrate the user, to do design of anything that matters?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Fight for the blender in this dark times!

      • As long as Blender won't replace that piece of shit they call a UI it'll remain stuck in the "also ran" category.

        • Blender DID replace its GUI, you imbecile.

          But Blender is not a CAD program.

          • 1) Moving a few things around and changing the labels of every third button does not qualify as a real replacement.

            2) AutoTurd isn't the only thing in Autodesk's product line. Compared to the UI of 3ds Max or Maya (aka space bar hell) or Blender barely even wins a consolation price (for just showing up).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Altium? They're not bad guys compared to (shudder) Cadence. You want poorly documented closed source bizarre GUIs with proprietary scripting languages? Cadence! Any Cadence employees reading this: fuck you.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, I remember using PSPICE/CaptureCIS/whatever in school. It was powerful, but it hated us all. Sometimes it would just do something random that no one would be able to explain, other times you'd have to perform some ritual to get it to simulate your circuit without shitting a brick. My favorites, though, were the Donuts of Doom, which it would stick in your schematic where it thought you had a problem.

    • Being a draftsman, I have to disagree with you. I've never seen another CAD application that had so much polish. It's extremely customizable in the user interface, as well as in function, yet it's also very, very stable. Sure, you might be able to find a car you wouldn't mind driving for less than the price of AutoCAD, but the typical use for it, is on projects that pay several tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even hundreds of thousands. If you're in a business that needs CAD work done, AutoCAD is well w

    • I hope you're right, in the sense that Instructables sucks enough that I wouldn't mind at all if they were dragged into the abyss and it was made that much easier for competitors to replace it.

      Visiting that site is just a miserable experience--you have to be logged in to access the most basic of features, or worse, a paid membership, which it's always trying to foist on you, and otherwise it's full of ads. It has some great content--thanks to the user-community that puts up with them. But the longer it ta

      • Check out [], a site still in its infancy, but where all the viewing options are available to everyone, logged in or not. (Commenting and posting articles requires a login of course.)

        All content will be public domain, Creative Commons Attribution, or Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike, meaning everything can be remixed. That's why every article has a "Copy this Article" button, letting users base their how-to article off someone else's. That lets them extend it, translate it into their

    • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Saturday August 06, 2011 @03:07AM (#37004720)

      I remember finding a video for my painting instructor and being shocked that it cost $500 for a DVDR copy with no right to back it up and being told that that's more or less just what films for schools cost.

      Same sort of thing with AutoCAD, it is expensive, expensive enough that it's not affordable for anybody that isn't working in the industry. But, if you're drawing up plans for a multimillion dollar project, the cost is a pittance comparatively speaking compared with the other costs involved. And ultimately as long as everybody else is using that software that's what you'll get.

      Not that it makes it right mind you, but that is how that works. I'm skeptical that this is a good thing ultimately for the folks that use the site.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      this is the same point I made in my recent post, starting from the fact that Autodesk locks CAD worse than Microsoft locks office documents , see

    • by bosah ( 2117736 )

      That abandoned all Unix ports of their software many, many versions ago?

      Ermm. thats not true at all really. I'm always up for a bit of Autodesk bashing but Maya, Mudbox, 3DSMax, Softimage, Flame all run on Linux. In fact its CAD which is the odd one out really in their product lineup. Also the Area community isn't too shabby tbh. Oh, and FBX is pretty open really. I'm not an Autodesk fanboy by any means I'm an old Alias/Wavefront fanboy who is still bitching about some of the weird things they've done to Maya.

      • by bosah ( 2117736 )
        Also, I'm frankly impressed that they've maintained Maya, 3DSMax and Softimage as independent prdoucts beyond what was in their roadmaps when they acquired them. I, and a lot of other people, were expecting some horrible hybrid single product to emerge to replace them.
      • Their software, not things they bought. AutoCAD ran on Unix before they microsof-ified its interfaces.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Autodesk Autocad was designed to replace the drafting board. It was released at a time when only a few firms had what would be called personal computers. It was never a mass market application. It was a vertical market application for professionals, those that needed reliability and support. To sell they had to mimic the drafting table and tools so that users could easily transition. This means a 2d interface that is unfamiliar to those that entered school after 1990 or so.

      It took about 10 years for

      • [fluff skipped]

        Were you trying to make some kind of a point here?

        The community to be built is more like linkedin rather than facebook. Targeted not to the masses but to future professionals. It is the same think that Solidworks is doing with First. That is community of robot builders that will form a clique well into early professional life and will insure Solidworks sales.

        Linkedin is a community without communications. It's basically for people to announce their presence. It helps to maintain a list of connections and keeping resume posted in some accessible way, but it does not encourage participants to do anything, least of all to copy each other's preferences and idiosyncrasies. The best Autodesk can do with it is "hey, see, there are so many people claim that they used AutoCAD for something!"

        If Autodesk's current effort t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I when the advertising started, I knew they were angling for their big cash out. Well, looks like they got it. Here's to hopeing they choke on the money their community made them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, 2011 @12:41AM (#37004194)

    Autodesk continues their 'Innovation through Acquisition' stormtrooper march.

    March 31, 1997 Softdesk Inc.
    May 6, 1998 Genius CAD-Software G.m.b.H.
    March 16, 1999 Discreet Logic Inc.
    April 22, 1999 VISION Solutions
    January 24, 2001 Gentry Systems
    September 24, 2001Buzzsaw
    February 21, 2002 Revit Technology CorporationAugust 6, 2002 CAiCE Software Corporation
    December 18, 2002 truEInnovations, IncMarch 4, 2003 Linius Technologies, Inc
    February 24, 2004 MechSoft, Inc.
    March 2005 COMPASS systems GmbH
    May 10, 2004 Unreal Pictures
    June 10, 2004 AVEVA
    December 17, 2004 CAD ISV
    June 16, 2005 Colorfront Ltd.
    July 6, 2005 c-plan
    August 22, 2005 Solid Dynamics, SA
    October 17, 2005 Alias Inc. (Maya Wavefront .OBJ File format)
    August 6, 2007 Skymatter Inc (Mudbox)
    August 9, 2007 NavisWorks, Inc.
    August 20, 2007 Opticore AB
    August 28, 2007 PlassoTech (CAE)
    November 25, 2007 RobobatMay 1, 2008 Moldflow Corporation
    May 7, 2008 Kynogon SA and REALVIZ SAJune 26, 2008 Square One Research (Ecotect)
    October 23, 2008 Avid's Softimage, Co.
    December 17, 2008 ALGOR, Inc.
    December 2009 VisualTAO (PlanPlatform)
    February 17, 2011 Blue Ridge Numerics, Inc.

    So long Instructables... It was nice knowing you...

    • by webmistressrachel ( 903577 ) on Saturday August 06, 2011 @12:45AM (#37004214) Journal

      As long as capitalism encourages this, it will continue. Don't blame the child, blame the parent.

      I would also like to add that they retain the teams and platforms - gosh they still have seperate 3DS MAX and Maya teams! I'd like you to use those finely-honed research skills to compare and contrast this with, say, IBM, or M$...

    • Most large software companies acquire smaller development groups, that's SOP these days AND many of the smaller companies WANT it. I know I worked for a couple of start-ups that had those hopes. Some of the software acquisitions you listed saved the software from simply going away because they weren't being profitable on their own (damn that capitalism) so Autodesk saw an opportunity to keep some technologies alive. (yeah, don't be all grateful or anything) I'm sure when faced with the choice of going a
  • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Saturday August 06, 2011 @01:00AM (#37004262)

    Since I actually know a couple of 3rd party software developers for Autodesk with UIDS under 1,000... I remain highly skeptical of Autodesk's commitment towards any community.

    From what I remember Autodesk "absorbed" a lot of people's hard work into their own software and said the developers legally had no recourse. I'm fuzzy on the exact details, but from what I remember, one of my friends was making good money with their 3rd party software and then all of the sudden it was gone.

    So if Autodesk totally screwed over its entire development community years back, what makes you think they have a real commitment towards supporting anybody but themselves?

    • I would hardly underestimate the possibility of them fucking it up; but if they don't care about some method of turning "community" into profit, every penny spent on instructables was a complete waste. According to terms c. and d. of their legal blurb, instructables gains broad rights to publish and derive; but entirely nonexclusive ones, so anybody they piss off can just run to blogspot and post their hacks there.

      Technologically, instructables is just another CMS-driven site, nothing particularly notabl
      • To be fair, it'd be hard to hurt Instructables too much. The site is a cesspool of forced, unnecessary account creation and logins, advertising overload and bad conversation management. I'm not sure why it's the go-to place for that kind of thing.
        • by Grail ( 18233 )

          It's the go-to place because that's where everybody goes.

          c.f.: the network effect

          • I'm sure you're right. I guess it's time for a Facebook to their MySpace.
            • I'm not sure it's a Facebook to their MySpace, but since this came up on Slashdot, I'm plugging my new site: []. The site still in its infancy, but where all the viewing options are available to everyone, logged in or not. (Commenting and posting articles requires a login of course.)

              All content will be public domain, Creative Commons Attribution, or Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike, meaning everything can be remixed. That's why every article has a "Copy this Article" button, letting u

  • Getting people to use free and trial versions of their Autodesk software isn't part of a plan for them to upsell? And they're not going to make Instructable-like communities by obtaining members and projects from Instructables? Ok... I'll bite. What other things do they have planned, MAKE?
  • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Saturday August 06, 2011 @02:36AM (#37004586) Journal

    autodesk is about as anti-open anything as you can get. they are 100% against any kind of open standard for anything.

    combine that with the power of patent lawsuits, and you can pretty much kiss free 3d-printing goodbye in the United States.

    their plan is to make you pay for every single last triangle in your STL file, claiming they somehow invented triangles.

  • by beachdog ( 690633 ) on Saturday August 06, 2011 @03:13AM (#37004770) Journal

    This report of the sale of Instructables to Autodesk makes it clear to me that the free software community needs a common drawing data structure and a set of user drawing interchange utilities.

    The world of free drafting and CAD doesn't have the many little component drawings available to the users of AutoCAD proprietary drafting software. From the previous poster's comments, AutoDesk is unlikely to make any user data files or data structure information more available in the future.

    I just finished spending 2 months reviewing many of the free CAD programs. I am looking for programs and applications to design a solar water heater installation, a radio antenna, a fractal made out of wire, an electrical circuit and a wagon. Is there anything yet to match sheets of quad paper, a .5 mm mechanical pencil and a HP-48 calculator and some assorted handbooks?

    What AutoDesk seems to have, that is never released by AutoDesk, is the Autocad user drawing data structure and the little drawings of ready to use components.

    What is missing from PythonCAD, Qcad, Blender, and Varkon is libraries of little drawings called "components". (An interesting program is the Beta prototype "Fritzing" for designing Arduino breadboards. Fritzing is all about placing components and drawing wires between the components. It has a delightful simple data structure for doing this.)

    The whole world of CAD or mechanical drafting programs is wrapped up in incompatible islands of proprietary user drawing data structures. It seems to spring from business based engineers who want to be paid directly for every single use of their engineering knowledge.

    Since it is partly free and it does run on Linux (with Wine), I like Google Sketchup. The drawing app is genius, the user data structure is proprietary and the data can be exported only using the $500 professional version of Sketchup. I wish they would publish their user data structure.

    It would be both fun and a first class challenge to write conversion utilities to convert files from Sketchup to Blender, from Sketchup to PythonCAD and Qcad. From the CAD programs back and forth to SAGE and Xnec2c. Here is an interesting problem in doing user data structure conversions: When doing the file conversion, you need a way to not throw away data that one program uses and another doesn't. One way is to provide for internal comments within the user application data structure for each drawing application. And figure out how to keep each comment together with some active point within the data structure.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday August 06, 2011 @03:19AM (#37004798) Homepage

    Autodesk already has a deal with TechShop - if you're a TechShop member, you can get a 6-month free license for Autodesk Inventor, their high-end CAD package. The intent is to increase the pool of people who know how to design and make things. Those are the people who use Autodesk products.

    Inventor takes weeks to learn, but is worth it if you're doing serious mechanical design. It's the attention to detail, like having a library of about 75,000 standard parts like bolts, nuts ("would you like a lockwasher with that?"), and bearings. The parts aren't just pictures; the system has strength and wear data for them, and can do the engineering calculations for a bolted joint or a bearing. It can handle moving parts, nested subassemblies, finite element analysis, wiring harness layout, piping - all those things which are a giant pain in real world design.

    123D is a toy-level Autodesk Inventor. The 3D and graphic visualization tools are there, but not the engineering calculations or the big parts libraries. Some parts from those libraries are distributed free with 123D, but without the engineering data. It's easier to use than Inventor, but it's definitely a CAD program,not a drawing program. It seems to be designed to get people thinking about mechanical design in the way it's done professionally. That makes sense from Autodesk's perspective.

  • ... and not try to keep things like this quiet:

    "How I discovered Instructables' email database had been stolen" []

  • my guess is that clones and compatibles (bricscad, cadopia, progesoft,,,) are making them nervous.
    people are starting to realize there are other, cheaper options.

    they are losing their lock-in.

  • I've been playing with various cad programs to design things for my MakerBot (my standard is OpenSCAD [] and TinkerCAD [] for example) and last night I watched some of the videos of 123CAD and it looked quite nice. I went to the download page and... nope. Windows only.

    So I checked their forum and it seems that a Mac version is the most requested feature.

    It's a neat looking program though.

  • [] [] []

    At least I tried to get the ideas out there. But great minds think alike, so it may well be independent invention. :-)

    Good luck to the new merger. Too bad it is not centered aroun free and open source software for the CAD side.

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.