Starting AutoCAD in Safemode

A common problem when troubleshooting AutoCAD problems is narrowing down the source of your headache. A handy tool is adding a /SAFEMODE switch to the AutoCAD shortcut. This works for Civil 3D and every other AutoCAD based vertical 2013 or newer.

Starting AutoCAD in safe mode blocks all executables from running on top of AutoCAD. It prevents any LISP routines from running.

When AutoCAD is in safemode, most of the base functions will work, but Express tools will not. Express tools are mostly LISP routines.

To start AutoCAD in safe mode, edit the properties of the icon. Add /safemode at the end of the Target path.

Here are some examples of problems I've solved with this method:
A customer contacted us reporting Civil 3D crashing every time he tried to use the Capture Area command from the Geolocation tab. It turned out that there is a conflict with Projectwise and AutoCAD. By starting in Safemode, he was able to capture the map. Yay, workarounds!
A second customer was trying to get AutoCAD to recognise his custom acad.pgp. His support file search paths were set up correctly (the pgp file was located in a support folder at the top of the list). When he sent me a screengrab of his support file search paths, I noticed he had a directory in there called LISP. Hmmmmmmmmmm, LISP? He started in safemode and AutoCAD recognised his PGP as expected. So now his assignment is to find the LISP that was overriding his PGP file. These were all custom LISP files; none of the OOTB lsp files would have this problem. 


Dispatch from Support: Unit Settings in Autodesk ReCap 360

ReCap is a new-ish offering from Autodesk which debuted in spring 2013. I'm still learning the ins and outs, but so far it is very intuitive. The scope of the product very focused on processing laser scans and passing them to other Autodesk products. ReCap Photo is a related tool that can make 3D models from photos.


Today I had a question from one of my users that I was a little embarrassed not to know off the top of my head. "Where do I set the project units in ReCap 360?"

By default, a new ReCap 360 project will start up in meters, but it is quite easy to change.

1- Go into Preferences

2- Set the project units to feet.

3- Once feet is set, you can choose foot types of International or US (meaning US Survey feet).

I recommend clearing the checkbox for "auto appropriate unit." If you keep that setting on, you'll get feet and miles as units (which might not be relevant to your project.)

Then click OK. No scaling is performed.

ReCap stands for "reality capture," but today is Friday and I'm about to let go of reality for 50-some hours! 


"Is it Me, or is the Cloud Down?"

Did you know there are public websites where you can check the status of the Autodesk cloud service you are trying to use?

Bookmark these!
  • is a site that reports the status of many of the most highly used Autodesk 360 products. You can sign up for status change alerts for your favorite services. 

If you are wondering why Infraworks 360 or ReCap 360 are not in the list here's why: Infraworks and Recap use a mix of the services listed on those pages to do it's thing. Signing in and getting your entitlements is done by the Identity and Accounts server, Oxygen (that's true of all of the web services that require sign in). If you run a profile optimization in Infraworks or create a 3D photo model in Recap, the computations are performed by a different server. Your online models are stored on another server (check Nitrogen if you are having trouble accessing online models).

Knock on wood, unplanned service outages are pretty rare. If everything looks good in the above web pages, the next step is to look at your connectivity to the outside world. 


How to Make Your Autodesk Deployments Portable

Here is a case I had WAY too much fun with. A CAD manager at one of my customers wanted to copy deployment packages to various local offices. The problem with that is the servers have different names so moving a deployment renders it useless unless you know which files to tweak.

 If one were to move a deployment image there are a few files that hang onto the path location.

  1. The target in the properties main shortcut used to launch the installer. (the shortcut circled above)
  2. Paths inside the ini file (in this example it will be in the img folder and called Infraworks_360_16.2.ini)
  3. Paths to modify the deployment. This is optional, but handy to have ready to go.
In this example I'm showing an Infraworks 360 deployment. However, this technique will work with most Autodesk product deployments.

  • So, instead of using the shortcut to launch the deployment, use a batch file. The batch file is short, but sweet and looks like this:

%~dp0Img\Setup.exe /W /q /I Img\Infraworks_360_16.2.ini /language en-us

%~dp0 means "use the current folder"
img is the next folder to look in. Note that there is no space between the %~dp0 and the Img
Setup.exe is the installation executable
/w means wait for any other installers to finish
/q means quiet (no dialog boxes except for a progress bar)
/I means install

  • Once you have the batch file, you can delete the original shortcut if you wish.
  • The last required step is to modify the ini file. Go to the IMG folder and edit the ini file with your deployment name (in my example Infraworks_360_16.2.ini ).
  • Scroll down to the Global MSI Properties Area
  • Remove the path to the Admin Image. You can delete this because it is only used when creating new deployments.
  • Change the path to the Network log to %tmp%

  • Save the ini file and that's it. 

If you want, you can also create a batch file to replace the Create & Modify a deployment shortcut too. The new deployment you create will be created in the same location as the one you are working with.
If you are a real stickler, you can use the same techniques to modify the path to the update tools in the ApplyUpdates folder. I find it much easier to manually run AdAppMgr.exe from ..\IMG\Setup\AdAppMgr\ but this is what it would look like if you want to make a batch file:
Because I kept all of the install tools in their default directories, I needed to use %~dp0..\..\ to tell the batch  file to look 2 directories up.

At this point you can move the deployment package to any server or USB drive without If you try this, I'd love to hear your feedback on how it worked for you. 

Special thanks to Richard H. for his ideas on doing this. 


Dispatch from Support: Does Infraworks 360 Account for the Curvature of the Earth?

Infraworks does take into account the curvature of the earth, BUT it does not compensate for that when importing a large FBX or other 3D models. For example, I had a support case for a user that had a single FBX that contained an entire city's worth of buildings. He noticed that buildings far from the basepoint appeared to "float." It turned out that the ground had curvature but the 3D model did not. The workaround is to break up the 3D models into multiple pieces to avoid running into the curvature of the earth. 

engineering would be so much easier with a flat earth
The curvature of the earth also impacts Infraworks users if you are working in a custom coordinate system with Civil 3D. If you are used to Civil 3D, you may know that the curvature of the earth is completely ignored in any AutoCAD based product. If you are using an out-of-the-box, real-life coordinate system, the ellipsoid is taken into account when transferring data to Infraworks (e.g. adjustment to work with the curvature of the earth happens automatically). However, if you are working in a custom coordinate system in Civil 3D and are pushing it out to Infraworks there is no ellipsoid to adjust to, therefore you may see coordinate weirdness in large models.  

Custom coordinate systems make my brain hurt. I recommend avoiding them altogether, especially if you are using Infraworks. This goes double for large models, where you will see the effects of a curved Infraworks world.



Where the [BLEEP] Did My Download Options Go?!

Back in March, Autodesk rolled out it's new subscription management site From a user interface perspective, it is a much more logical layout and you can actually search for products now.

There are many improvements, but one of the things that annoys the ever-lovin' stuffin' outta me is that the download options are more difficult to find for some products. The website encourages people to use the "Install Now" feature for many products.

I'm not a fan of the "Install Now" option for several reasons. When using this option, the install downloads files as it goes. For products with smaller installation media, that's not a problem, but some products are kinda big. The Install Now option requires you to be connected to the internet for the duration of the install and stay logged into your Autodesk account. If something fails or your connection times out, you need to start over.

The best way to download Autodesk products is with the Download Now tool. You can also use the Browser Download, which uses your web browser's download manager rather than the Akamai one (Akamai is the third party web delivery service that manages Autodesk downloads). Both of these options pull the entire installation package to your hard drive.

For some products, you can find the additional download options in the More Options menu.

However, many products don't have those options. Grr. To find them, you have to dig a little deeper.

Scroll alllllllll the way to the bottom of your products listing. You will see a button that says Download Products.

This will bring you to an interface that looks more like the old subscription site. From here, you will be able to find the Download Now or Browser Download option for your product.

More tips for downloading your product install files:

  •  Make sure you get all pieces. (Turn off your web browser’s pop-up blocker temporarily to ensure you download all the files). 
  • Pay attention to the name of the file. If you see that the name of the exe ends with 001_003, that means your are looking at one of three separate downloads needed.
  • If you grabbed the correct files, you will see “dlm” as part of the name. That stands for download manager.  You will see "dlm" in both the Download Now and Browser Download obtained files. If you wee "wi" in the file name, that means you have the web installer which contains a portion of the files you need. If you try to run the Setup.exe from a "wi" folder, you will receive a Communication Failure message. 
  • Save all the needed files to a directory on your hard drive. These are the files that will be extracted and used to start the deployment. (In the “old days” these would have come on a CD).
  • After all pieces are downloaded using Download Now option, the exe will try to self-extract. Your computer’s settings may prevent EXEs from automatically running, in which case you will need to browse to the folder where you saved it and double click. If you used Browser Download, you always need to double-click the exe to get the extraction started.
Have fun downloading!


Etcetera (Totally Random, and Maybe a Little Icky)

This crazy poem popped into my head last night. I hadn't thought of it in YEARS, but the following is a poem that I learned in my college wastewater treatment plant design class. At the time I remember thinking, "Like, oh.mah, gawd. So gross!"

Milorganite is a commercial product sold by the Milwaukee sewerage district (MMSD). It is the concentrated, heat-sterilized organic material left over after the wastewater sludge removal process (eg dried poop). Milorganite is short for "Milwaukee organic nitrogen" You can pick a 36lb bag up at your local garden store for about $15. MMSD essentially breaks even on it after the cost of making it minus the cost of not sending the sludge to a landfill.
Milwaukee is a land of cheer,
German cooking, ale and beer;
They eat and drink from morn' 'til night,
And then they make Milorganite
Their ball team is quite their pride,
It's fame has traveled far and wide.
The grandstand has a place in sight
Where they can  go and make Milorganite! 
After the game they go to dinner,
It does not matter whose the winner;
And after sleeping through the night,
Start making more Milorganite!
I state without equivocation,
This chore has keen cooperation;
It's manufacture is an art,
Where everybody does his part. 
Old men, young men, perfumed ladies,
Boys and girls and even babies;
Grunt and strain and do what's right,
To pile up more Milorganite! 
                                          -Author unknown (NOT me)

A poem. Now we're all culture-ified!