AutoCAD 2014 Deployment Customization

Since everyone loves videos (myself included), here’s another one! Autodesk AutoCAD 2014 Deployment creation & customization. No frills video that goes straight into demos, creating a deployment in a DFS path, and then installing it onto virtual machines using Virtual Box.

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Deploying AutoCAD 2013 via Group Policy

I initially created a group policy as I’ve always done. Set package installation paths, point to the MSIs. Seems like that didn’t work too well. After a gpupdate /force, the workstation will look like it’s installing the software but when you log in and actually try to install it, you’ll get this errror with ACCORE.DLL crashing.

After looking through a lot of different discussions boards and PDF white papers and going through a few trial runs in our lab, AutoCAD 2013 is now installed in my training rooms, pushed automatically via OU association with Group Policy. It was a little bit of a hassle to figure out the various MSI and MST files needed for successful GPO push, but alas, all is well in the universe again 

Source: Autodesk Wiki Page on GPO deployment

Beam me back to the network please! [the 2013 version]

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… You can beam yourself back after you left Starship Enterprise. Okay, I’m not talking about Captain Kirk here, but rather users who disconnected from their offices and left for some sunny location to “work” and subsequently converted their licenses to standalone. Now that they’re back to reality and need to be back onto network seats, a quick and easy change in the registry will fix do the trick!

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Autodesk\AutoCAD\R19.0\ACAD-xxxx\AdLM

Civil3d-2013-reg

NOTE:  The value ACAD-xxxx may change depending on your AutoCAD vertical.  The example above is for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013.

In that directory change the type for the installation that you require to edit Type:
1 – Network
2 – Standalone
3 – Multiseat Standalone

Making the WAN as fast as the LAN

I get a common question on how to make users from multiple offices share the same drawings seamlessly. They want to be able to work on files stored in New York while working from Seattle just as they were in the New York office. In the realm of WAN optimization, the biggest player is Riverbed Steelhead. Autodesk works directly with Riverbed and many firms already have it in place, but it’s important to know what actually happens.

The appliance takes data across the wire and caches it, sending only bits that haven’t been sent (incremental changes). The first 5MB file you send will take 1 minute (cold). If someone requests the same file later, that transfer will take 10-20 seconds (warm). The older DWG file format (2007 and older), along with older Autodesk software, does the full file swap when saving, negating any benefit from appliance.

Solution?

  1. Change the “Incremental Save Percentage” (ISP) inside AutoCAD to 50.
  2. Use the 2010 DWG format!
    • Why? The 2007 DWG format are not optimized. When you do every open/save, all the bits inside it are rearranged, data de-duplication technologies can’t recognize them, and the entire file looks new to Riverbed’s data hashing algorithms.
    • 2007 is sooooo 2007. Last time I checked, it is not 2007 anymore.

Another interesting tidbit is that if you analyze the data from your Steelhead, besides AutoCAD files being optimized, a lot of the benefit comes from other things are being optimized. You’d be surprised how chatty software is.

Automate ALL the things!

Just came back from a client visit and the project this time was helping to upgrade their license server. Pretty straight forward stuff, but I’ve come to realize that what I do as “straight forward” is actually pretty impressive to quite a few people.

We all know [at least you should if you follow my blog] that there are three spots that Autodesk uses to define where the license servers are.

  • Environment variables
  • Registry Entries
  • LICPATH.LIC

These are read that in that order, and when the system finds the key (ADSK_LICENSE_FILE), it will stop and put it to memory. So how does it affect my deployment? Well, if you have a license server (let’s call it OldLic1 and OldLic2) already serving up licenses and you want to upgrade/retire it and move licenses to your new, awesomely robust virtual server (NewLic1 and NewLic2), most people think you need to touch every workstation to update those values so that AutoCAD and Revit will get license from the right servers. NOT!

With the all-powerful Group Policy Management Editor and some nifty GPOs, you can make the change to all your workstations to all your branches… at once. Yes, we did this to well over a thousand machines for this project, even to their branches, WITHOUT having to touch every single machine. Thank goodness too, cuz I would’ve gone crazy!

Wait,… what? What GPOs do I need, you ask? I dropped enough clues; I’ll let your IT group figure that one out 

default (vs) local (vs) shared

So what is the difference between default, local, and shared when you deploy AutoCAD / AutoCAD Architecture? Both default and local stores onto your local workstation; the difference is that you get to pick where you want it to go (local) and keeping content data like AEC styles and DesignCenter Content in the  ProgramData folder (default).

The Shared Mode is where things get a little more interesting, and for larger firms, this is the preferred method since standardization across all workstations is vital for productivity. I mean, you don’t want teams in the same firm using completely different Templates and Layer Standards. Some points to consider:

  • If you specify the same location for subsequent installations (not deployment), you will be prompted to overwrite the existing shared content files.
  • If you create a deployment with shared content, the content files are written to the shared locations when the deployment is created. This “one time deal” installs content for all Content Packs to the shared location so make sure it’s large enough.

Thankfully uninstalling the software from one workstation does not remove the content from the shared location. Imagine the headaches that would’ve happened if that was the case! Craziness!

Softlocks are just as tough and annoying as hardlocks!

“The security system (softlock license manager) is not functioning or improperly installed. ”

 

Yes, you can reformat your machine and make this error message go away. Your support guy might also suggest a full uninstall of all Autodesk software. Of course there is always another way 

Softlock License Manager Errors were typically seen with the older version of AutoCAD products (releases older than 2008) and the typical cause of the error was restricted permissions on licensing folder or some corruption with the license file. We’ve been seeing this also with 2012 software, especially software coming from new Building Design Suite. The standalone license file locations are here:

On Vista or Windows 7:

  • C:\ProgramData\FLEXnet\adskflex_00691b00_tsf.data
  • C:\ProgramData\FLEXnet\adskflex_00691b00_tsf.data.backup 

On Windows XP:

  • C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\FLEXnet\adskflex_00691b00_tsf.data
  • C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\FLEXnet\adskflex_00691b00_tsf.data.backup

These files are encrypted files and basically keep activation information.  Please try giving Everyone full control permissions to the folder and move adskflex data files you find there to another folder (e.g. Desktop). If that didn’t work, just delete the files. Can’t delete the files? That means that the service that requires those files are still in use. Go to the services.msc and look for “FLEXnet Licensing Service” and “FLEXnet Licensing Service 64”. Start the service, then STOP the service – in that order. Once those services are stopped, delete those two files and start the services up again. Start AutoCAD and VOOOOOOILA!!

Beam me back to the network please! [the 2012 version]

We all know 2012 brought a lot of new features from Autodesk development, and I’m especially glad that the “feature” to convert a standalone license to network license is back. Clients no longer need to uninstall software in order to make it run from the license server. Tweak the registry [check the pic for the path] – a value of 1 is network, 2 is standalone.

*If you’re wondering why people ask for this ability, just think of the number of architects & engineers who take a company laptop but forget to check out a license. Without any connection back to the network, the only option to get them up and running is to jump them into the standalone 30 day trial bandwagon. They’ll have 30 days to figure out how to fix it and hopefully IT can setup a VPN connection by then.

Autodesk Certified Hardware list…. updated!

I’m sure most of you have heard that the Autodesk 2012 products are out already, and some of you have enough started dl’ing the new software via subscription center. YAY!

But what I thought was cool was the new Autodesk Graphics Hardware list. You can search by a particular software or even a Design Suite (the new Autodesk offering) to make sure that the graphics hardware for your machine is supported. Need to find out if your graphics card supports shadows, color fills, and transparent elements in Revit 2012 products? Make sure you see a green check mark greencheckmark for those specific items!

adskgraphicshardware1

LMTOOLS – adskflex SHUTDOWN request

I received a call from a large firm recently. Things have been pretty good and all their license servers have been working fine…. except for one. The service that provides the licenses for Autodesk software keeps shutting down. The only “solution” was the restart the service via LMTOOLS. When he called me, I told him that the next time he does this, send me the log file BEFORE restarting the service. And this he did:

19:22:04 (adskflex) OUT: “54600ACD_2008_0F” jwong@us-ny-384
19:31:35 (lmgrd) SHUTDOWN request from sgonzalez at node us-ny-576
19:31:35 (lmgrd) lmgrd will now shut down all the vendor daemons
19:31:35 (lmgrd) Shutting down adskflex pid=2768 because of signal 15
19:31:35 (adskflex) Shutdown requested from SYSTEM@us-license1 IP=10.0.5.2
19:31:35 (lmgrd) Shut down FLEXnet adskflex license server system on machine us-license1
19:31:35 (lmgrd) EXITING DUE TO SIGNAL 15
19:31:35 (adskflex) daemon shutdown requested – shutting down
19:31:35 (adskflex) IN: “64300ACD_F” fchen@us-ny-375  (SHUTDOWN)

Blame sgonzalez sitting on machine us-ny-576 since he trigged the shutdown request! Make sure that he doesn’t have any LMTOOLS instances that’s running since that can trigger the shutdown request. For the client, we went to his machine and found that he had a rogue service running, and, as expected, it was LMTOOLS he installed for another piece of software.

Ahhhhh, debug log – is there anything you can’t do?