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12.11.14

Autodesk CERs: how to Suppress and/or Force them

Long time no blog. I've been busy attempting to further my comedy aspirations and otherwise building my empire. Also, I've been napping whenever convenient.

Customer error reports are generated when an Autodesk product unexpectedly exits, (i.e. “crashes”). Many folks have created informative blog posts about the importance of Autodesk CERs (like this one from Shaan Hurley), but few have discussed how to make them bow to your will.

Here's a document I created for my support customers.
https://autodesk.box.com/s/hskrrsryfz41bakediw8

And here's a taste of what's inside!

Information that is automatically passed to Autodesk’s CER system includes:
·         Machine Information
o    Operating system version
o    Locale
o    Graphics card and driver version
·         Application information
o    Product name
o    Product version and service pack level
·         Runtime information
o    How long the product has been running, or “uptime”
o    Last 5 commands run
o    Exception thrown (“what happened” to crash the program)
o    Callstack (information about what routines were running)
o    Add-ins installed

o    Hotfixes installed

The following information is not part of a CER:
·         License data
·         Company information
·         User-specific information (unless otherwise given in the email or description fields).

This important data is tracked and frequently investigated by Autodesk staff, however, messages in the description area are not read real-time. If you need technical support you must go through your regular support channel.

See Autodesk’s official privacy policies for more information:



I cross my fingers that you don't crash, but if you do - send in the CER!


14.10.14

Resolving “Generic” Fatal Errors in AutoCAD and Related Verticals

This is a list of common fixes for many AutoCAD (and AutoCAD-related products).  This is listing is presented in order of “easy” to “more difficult”.  Local Windows administrator permissions are needed where noted.

Standard disclaimers for messing with your registry apply. 

With AutoCAD Running


·         AUDIT the drawing.
o   Type the AUDIT command on your drawing and type Y for yes to fix any errors found.
·         -PURGE
o   At the command line type -PURGE (note the dash in front of the word purge). This will bring up the command-line version of the purge command. Type R for regapps. Press enter again to accept all registered applications to be purged. When prompted to verify each regapp to be purged, type N for no. Registered applications are "thumbprints" left behind by AutoCAD verticals and third-party applications.  They frequently cause memory bloating and crashing.
  • Disable Hardware Acceleration
    • In Command line type 3DCONFIG
    • Click on Manual Tune and toggle off “Enable Hardware Acceleration”
    • Click OK and close all dialogs

·         RECOVERALL
o   Have AutoCAD running with the default Drawing1.dwg open.  Type RECOVERALL at the command line. This will scan the main drawing and all related XREFs. RECOVER is preferable to AUDIT because the drawings are not open at the time of scanning.

With AutoCAD Closed


·         Empty the User’s temp directory.
o   My favorite way to get to the user temp directory is to type %TEMP% in the windows address bar. With all programs closed, delete as many of the files and folder from the temp directory as Windows will allow. (Some temp files are always in use by Windows and will not go away.)
·         Verify that the most recent service packs are installed.
o   To check what version of the service pack you have installed, type ABOUT at the command line. In the upper-left corner of the About box, you will see the service pack version that is installed.
o   Check for and obtain the latest service packs from: http://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/autocad/downloads#?sort=score
o   Administrator privileges are required to install service packs and updates.

·         Resetting the AutoCAD Settings to Default (Administrator privileges required).  To do this:
o   Exit AutoCAD and all related software
o   Go to your Windows Start button.
o   Click All Programs > Autodesk > AutoCAD 201X > Reset Settings to Default (see attached screen shot).
o   The next dialog box will ask if you'd like to make a backup.  I recommend picking "Back up and reset custom settings" option) Save the resulting zip file wherever you like.
o   Allow AutoCAD to rebuild the files it needs. AutoCAD will launch after this process.
o   For AutoCAD 2011 and older, and versions that do not have the reset utility, use the following process:
·         Complete Uninstall and Reinstall (Administrator privileges required)
o   From the Windows control panel uninstall the feature per usual.
o   Delete the following folders:
§  C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Roaming\Autodesk\AutoCAD 20xx
§  C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Local\Autodesk\AutoCAD 20xx
§  Note: These paths contain hidden folders. You must turn on "show hidden files" in Folder Options to see them.
o   Verify that registry keys related to the Autodesk product are removed
§  HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Autodesk\AutoCAD\RXX.X\ACAD-xxxx:40X
§  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Autodesk\AutoCAD\RXX.X\ACAD-XXXX:40X
§  Note: RXX.X represents the release year and ACAD-XXXX:40X represents the AutoCAD “flavor” and language.
o   Reinstall the product under the following conditions:
§  Logged in as local administrator
§  UAC (User Account control) set to Never Notify
§  Antivirus temporarily disabled (you may need additional permissions to perform this step)

·         Other Ideas for fixing this issue (Administrator privileges required for all of the following):
o   Rebuild the user profile in Windows (see Fix a corrupted user profile).
o   Uninstall and reinstall the .NET Framework (see How to remove and reinstall the Microsoft .NET Framework).
o   Uninstall and reinstall Visual C++ (see How to remove and reinstall Microsoft Visual C++ Runtime Libraries).
o   Clear the digital signature icons and then uninstall and reinstall the application (see FATAL ERROR: Unhandled Access Violation Reading 0x0000 Exception at 4048b9h).
o   Update your graphics card driver. Install the latest driver from your video card manufacturer or use an AutoCAD-certified driver (see How to update your system to the latest certified video driver).


7.10.14

Civil 3D 2015 Deployment Question of the Day: No, You are Not Crazy

It's that time of year where companies are gearing up to deploy their new Autodesk products.  Some people are met with a surprise when they reach the screen where they would normally see the ability to download the most recent service packs.

At this point, normally you would see the ability to download the available service packs and include them in the deployment "on-the-fly". The following screengrab shows what this looks like in Revit 2015.
For Civil 3D 2015 and Map 3D 2015, this option has been omitted from the interface (not 100% sure why). 

You can always extract the MSI from the exe and use the Add... button to browse to the location of the MSI.  This process is cumbersome, in my opinion.

The easiest way to add service packs, subscription add-ons or other tools to your deployment is to use the Include Additional Software section. 


From the Install Additional Software area, you can add any exe or MSI and control the order in which it installs. You'll see a column for Command Line Parameters to the left of the Path.  Command line parameters are install switches you can use to force these additional installs to run silently.  


Command Line Parameters (I'll add more as I find them):

/Q = Quiet (use this if you want the add-ons to install without displaying dialog boxes)
/W = wait until all "child" installs are complete (I recommend adding this to all additional software you install.)

Go forth and install! Before you know it you'll be building your 2016 deployments. 


25.9.14

"AEC dimension: opening / door/ window associativity initiation failed"

Some days, this blog just writes itself.

Today I had a support case were Civil 3D 2014 was crashing with the above message. I had some very unhappy campers on my hands. This was occurring on many files and seemed to be spreading. I have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause, and there isn't much you can do except clean the file as well as possible.

There are a few blogs out there that I used for my source material, so I'd be remiss if I did not give credit to the Autocad Devblog guys. The smarties over at Rand also had a nice post about this specific error.

Here is my writeup of how to avoid the error in the future.


Regarding the AEC Dimension Error:

Note: These instructions are meant as a good faith effort to assist in removing the error message “AEC dimension: opening / door/ window associativity initiation failed” from a large batch of files in an automated manner.  This may not remove the error in all cases.


Before you proceed, complete the following steps:

1.       Make sure Civil 3D 2014 sp2 is installed.
2.       Download script pro from here.
3.       Download example script from here.
4.       Launch Autocad and suppress dialog boxes that may interfere with the scripts.
Go to AutoCAD options > System > Hidden Message settings and clear all checkboxes.


What this script does:
The script DWG_cleaner.scr does the following:
1.       Turns on all layers.
2.       Thaws all layers
3.       Purges registered applications, empty objects, unused items, etc.
4.       Audits (twice)
5.       Saves result.


To use the script:
1.       Unzip ScriptPro.zip.
This contains:
·         ScriptPro2.0.msi
2.       Install ScriptPro2.0.msi
3.       Save the script to a location on your hard drive.
4.       Launch Scriptpro.
a.       Click Browse
b.      Select the file DWG_cleaner.scr

c.       To add files to process, click Add From folder.


d.      Click the Settings button. 


e.      Click the Browse button.
                                                               i.      Browse to the path to ACAD.exe.
                                                             ii.      Click OK
5.       When you are ready to run the script, click the Checked button. 

 This will run the script on all of the files in the listing with a checkmark in the Name column.
It may take a while to process, but the result will be base AutoCAD files with the block and text exploded to plain text.
6.       When the script is complete you will get a message “Do you wish to view the log file.”  If it looks like everything went well, click No.

If you get any “Failed” messages, the most likely culprit is that a dialog box was not suppressed and interfered with the execution of the script.  Another possibility is that the file is too corrupt to open.  


IF The File Is Too Corrupt to Open or still gives the error message:
7.       Download an additional script here.  
8.       Extract the zip to a location you will remember.
9.       In ScriptPro, change the script by clicking Browse and select DWG_BatchRecover.scr

This script uses the recover command on the batch of files you choose. To use the Recover command, the file you wish to modify needs to stay closed, so you will change some settings in Script Pro to allow this to occur. 


10.   Click the Settings button. 
11.   Change the Settings to match the following dialog:
a.       Change the process timeout to 100 seconds (this allows large drawings to be recovered even though it may be slow).
b.      Place a checkbox next to “Run Script without opening drawing file”
c.       Click OK.


12.   When you are ready to run the script, click the Checked button.  This will run the script on all of the files in the listing with a checkmark in the Name column.

So - no guarantees, but if you have a whole lotta files to do something to, these little scripts can save you a TON of time. 


9.9.14

Happy Birthday Pier 9

Today was #TremendressTuesday at Autodesk, in celebration of the 1 year anniversary of the Autodesk facility at Pier 9 in downtown San Francisco.  Pier 9 houses an AMAZEBALLS workshop as well as several of Autodesk's consumer-facing product teams like Instructables, Sketchbook Pro and Spark just to name a few.

We were all encouraged to show our creativity through what we wore to work today. Not one to pass up an opportunity to dress in costume, I broke out the same shirt and custom Converse shoes I wore when I ran Bay to Breakers earlier this year. 

My office is a few blocks away in the 1 Market Street location of Autodesk.  However, I happen to be a docent at Pier 9, meaning that if someone wants a tour I can take people through and show off all of the insanely cool tools that are available to Autodesk employees and Artists in Residence. To use any piece of equipment, users must be trained. Safety is the #1 focus. Depending on the tool, training ranges from several hours to several days. There's also a test kitchen with a commercial-grade Wolf range that I drooooooool over.

In addition to the test kitchen there are four main areas of the workshop. There's the 3D print shop, digital fabrication shop, woodshop, and metal shop. Less glamorous, but just as cool (to me anyway) is the industrial sewing equipment and an electronics lab.

Many people ask, "Why does Autodesk have all that stuff?" Pier 9 is part test facility, part makerspace, part R&D operation and part playground. People are fabricating art, gadgets and customer models with much of the same equipment that would be used in a production facility. Walking through Pier 9, one cannot help but get excited and inspired to make cool stuff and think about design in a holistic way.


15.8.14

Civil 3D 2013 Underground Hotfix

This is not an official hotfix.

This fixes a pretty gnarly, insidious little issue where object names and styles look weird. The worst part is that, unchecked, the problem spreads between open files. 

Eew. 

A fix for Civil 3D 2014 was released OFFICIALLY via sp2
A fix for Civil 3D 2015 was released OFFICIALLY via sp1

The good news is that I have files to fix the problem for 2013. Imagine me passing this to you in an unmarked manila envelope in a darkened parking structure. 



Issue:
This issue manifests itself in several ways.  Users may see one or more of the following effects:
·         AutoCAD Civil 3D object names may appear corrupt.  The most frequently affected objects include surfaces, alignments, feature lines and site names.



·         Anchor components of the label styles may display an error, as seen here with an example surface style.



Cause:
This is a known issue in Civil 3D 2013.
Solution:
To resolve, follow this procedure:

·         Confirm AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013 service pack 2 (SP2) is installed by launching AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013 and typing “about” in the command line
o   The product version will be followed by “SP2” if the service pack has been installed
o   If necessary, download SP2 for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013 from the Autodesk Support Page
·         In windows explorer, under C:\Program Files\Autodesk\AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013, back up the following files: AeccLand.dbx, AeccNetwork.dbx, AeccPressurePipes.dbx, AeccvBase.dbx
o   Unzip the provided folder with .dbx file versions dated 7/23/2014
o   Close AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013 if it is still open
o   Copy and replace the four .dbx files from the unzipped folder to the Program Files location stated above
·         Launch the affected file in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013 with SP2
·         In the Settings tab, under General, Label Styles, the anchor component can now be set to “<feature>” and the default naming convention is restored.




Important Notes:
·         Everyone using Civil 3D 2013 must have this service pack installed or the object names will revert to the pre-fixed state.
·         This fix applies to Civil 3D 2013 sp2 only!
o   If you use Civil 3D 2014, the official service pack Civil 3D 2014 sp2 will prevent the same behavior.
o   If you use Civil 3D 2015, the official service pack, Civil 3D 2015 sp1 will prevent the same behavior.
·         Note that object names will not be restored to their pre-corrupted value, but you can rename them in the object properties.
·         This fix is language neutral
·         This is not an official hotfix. I am providing this to the public out of my sense of goodwill and duty to the user community.

Downloads:

7.8.14

Book Recommendation: The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway

Readable books about engineering topics are few and far between. Some of my favorites include:

  •  The Existential Pleasures of Engineering, as well as other books by Samuel C. Florman that encourage engineer types to think and be well-rounded.
  • Devil in White City, by Erik Larsen - this one's focus was the Chicago World's Fair and a serial killer, but in my mind the hero is the structural engineer who invented the Ferris wheel
  • Inviting Disaster, by James R. Chiles - the book that inspired Engineering Disasters on The History Channel. I confess that I'm a bit of a sucker for a good structural collapse (assuming no one gets hurt, of course).

I saw a review for The Race Underground, by Doug Most, in Boston Magazine while was on a recent trip to the Autodesk office in Waltham, MA. This book is about the history of urban transportation in Boston and New York, with interesting offshoots into London and Paris. The publisher's summary oversells the concept that the Whitney brothers' rivalry fueled the development of the subways of their respective cities. When you get into it, there was little rivalry and more two guys that happened to be in the right places at the right time when electricity, need and money came together to make a subway happen. Another misnomer is the concept of a "race." Nothing about these projects happened quickly. It took enormous will and money to overcome the fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

My favorite bit was about William Barclay Parsons' involvement with New York City's subway. He and Henry Steinway (yeah, the piano guy) designed the first few tunnels of what is now the IRT line of the New York subway system. Parsons went on to found Parson's Brinckerhoff  and became *THE GUY* to dig tunnels all over the world. What tickled me about his story is that at age 32 he was considered nearly too young to be heading up a project as large as the New York subway tunnels.


Gotta love civil engineering - the only field where being over 30 can still be considered young.

It does get a bit dry and protracted in parts, but overall a worthy read.