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I use several CAD programs including SolidWorks and Autodesk, but Rhino3D is by far my favorite. I just got my new Rhino3D 5.0 upgrade and Flamingo 3.0 Rendering software, so I thought I’d do a little mini review. I will still do that mini review at some point, but right now I have to finish a rant, because…
The Install and Upgrade Experience is Atrocious
Let’s start with the Bad News first–the install experience is terrible. Generally, I have found the Rhino upgrade experience to be pretty painless, so I was surprised at how bad this was. What I’m used to is just responding to the prompts when I bring up the product. It deals with finding the new release online whenever one is available and the worst thing is having to track down my License Key every time.
Having bought the upgrade from Novedge, who offered a nice discount, I fired up Rhino and went looking for someplace to put my new official license key. No joy, I couldn’t find a spot anywhere though I looked at several entries on the Help menu. I even tried the “Register Rhino” choice which offered no possibility of a License Key entry but did ask me a lot of silly questions. Oh well, at least I’m registered now. Little did I know.
So I decided to press ahead and install Flamingo, thinking that if it needed the darned License Key it would ask for one, and that even though it still said it was a Beta release, if there was a better release available it would tell me just like it always had in the past.
Aside from the fact that I find DVD installs exceedingly painful compared to just going online, I dealt with it and had Flamingo installed pretty quickly. Of course, it wanted to ask me that whole set of questions that had already been asked and answered when I did the “Register Rhino” thing. Sadly, this will not even be the last time I am asked those same questions. In this age of the Cloud, Cookies, and System Registries, why the heck couldn’t the Rhino people remember that I had already answered their questions? Or at the least why don’t they let me move ahead without answering like we do with our product surveys? By the fourth time I went through the same survey I was just plugging in random garbage to get through it. Geez!
Okay, so I fire up Rhino again having installed Flamingo without a hitch (other than my complaining about registering again) and it says it is loading plugins. Great! Pretty soon I’ll be doing snazzy renderings of my 3D models. “Not so fast!”, says Rhino. “Error loading plugin.”
Okay, maybe I’ll just reboot. Thankfully I have a Flash drive and so that doesn’t take long, though it is annoying. What’s more annoying is I still have that message. Wait. There’s a button down here that says, “Details” or some such. After pressing the button, I have a revelation: This Beta Version of Rhino will no longer work with plugins. That sounded rather smug: “We won’t let you use your plugin, we’ve turned that off, neener, neener!”
Why you dirty scoundrels! Why didn’t you make that obvious the first second the Flamingo installer started instead of acting like the install was a total success? Why didn’t you make it easy for me to just give Rhino my new license key and for it to then proceed to download and install the commercial version? Why is this being so annoying?
So, I get the Rhino DVD back out and proceed to install it. Of course it asks me those stupid registration questions all over again for the 3rd time and I have to type in the license key not only of my new purchase, but of the old version. That will be the fourth license key I have tracked down so far trying to install 2 products and I will have to type a fifth key before it is over. Stupid Rhino, this is way harder than it needed to be.
That little voice on my shoulder says, “This too shall pass, so get a grip man and let’s get done installing so we can play!”
Before I can fire up Rhino, I want to put the icon on my app dock at the top of my screen. That’s how I start programs on my machine because it’s very convenient to use a little utility called “Rocket Dock.” The Rhino icon hasn’t been up there because out of all the software I use, somehow the icon evaporates when I drag and drop it up there and I am left with a big “?” icon instead of the normal app icon. As I say, there are tons of other applications including my own G-Wizard software that work fine, but not Rhino. I had assumed this was some artifact of the Beta version and was looking forward to seeing it go away now that I had a real live commercial shipping version. No joy. I will continue to have to invoke Rhino from the Start menu.
God Bless the poor wretches who are using Windows 8 and have no Start Menu! Deep Breath.
Okay, I get Rhino running. But wait. My file history and who knows what all else is gone. Why in the world didn’t it pick that up from the Beta version? Good grief, Charlie Brown. This is really starting to seem Bush League. I got a file loaded, and so I went looking for Flamingo. No sign of it. Hmmm. Maybe it is so seamless, I can just select off the Render menu and it will work. I sort of knew that was wrong, but hope springs eternal. Of course it did not work, and though I did try a Render, it mostly just seemed to hang the machine.
Another reboot was obviously in order. By now this is a challenge: I am a better man and your silly install will not defeat me even as it infuriates me.
So I rebooted and tried again, and this time I payed careful attention and there was no popup telling me a plugin was being loaded. Evidently it was completely oblivious to the fact I had installed Flamingo on the Beta version. Sigh. Drag out the Flamingo disk. Do another DVD install. Enter the License Key. Again. Take the registration survey. Again. Made up all the answers that last time. I hope the Rhino marketing department are happy.
Now here I sit looking at my screen. It said the plugin was installed. There is a new “Flamingo nXt” menu at the top of screen. I can go out and find my files again, though I wish they were on the History list. I can probably create glorious renderings of them at long last if I would only move forward and get going on it.
My problem at this point is that I am afraid of disappointment. I just gave circa $800 for this kit and so far it has not made me happy. I will sign off here in the expectation that I can be made happy just by getting up from my computer, taking a little walk, having a cold drink, sitting down, and trying again with a much refreshed attitude. I want to save that happier attitude for my mini review. I want to breeze in and do rendering effortless so I can write a nice review without saying all these mean things about my favorite CAD software.
I have to admit: it isn’t like everyone is universally happy with how CNCCookbook’s software installs. I get questions all the time and that makes me unhappy because I want it to be falling-off-a-log easy. Each and every time there is a problem, I ask myself whether there is some way to make the software more bulletproof from each problem. Sometimes I get the answer, and sometimes I don’t, but I always try to think of ways. I have invested in all sorts of ways to gather your feedback on how to make the software better.
The reason our installs work the way they do is because I just hate the old-fashioned 90′s DVD install drill that is so common with CAD/CAM and CNC-related software these days and that caused me so much frustration with Rhino just now. We live in a connected age. We left a lot of that Microsoft-style nonsense behind and we know how to do better, or so we hope. It should be possible for the software to help me in every way possible by remembering what I’ve already done or by directing me to helpful resources.
I modeled our installs after the way the Internet giants do it. You know, Google, Facebook, Twitter–those kinds of companies. For performance reasons (CNC people do need their performance!), we need to install software on your PC, so it can’t just run in the browser. But, we take full advantage of the Internet to facilitate that in every way we can think of.
To install, you do just what you do on something like Facebook:
1. Fill out an online registration. We don’t ask you for anything but your name and your email. If you purchase, we need a mailing address, but that’s it. You don’t have to tell us your college degree or the first name of your first love or what breed your 3rd dog was.
2. You get back an email with a confirmation link in it. Click the link and the trial is activated. If you are a paid subscriber, no such confirmation is even needed. We require confirmation so we have a confirmed email where we can reach you to tell you when there are updates and such.
3. We will send you back after you’ve confirmed another email with a link to the install page. It’s not like the install page is a secret either. Go to any web page on CNCCookbook and click the “Software” menu at the top. We list our apps’ install pages, user guides, troubleshootting guides, and other resources right on the left column.
4. You download the file and install it.
5. You fire up the app and login with your email.
That’s it, full stop.
When people have problems it is generally because they either didn’t get the confirmation link clicked (usually because the email got lost in a spam filter) or they couldn’t install (usually due to not having the latest Flash or AIR on their PC or Mac) or they did all that and the login didn’t work. The most common causes of the latter is either not waiting long enough for registration to finish or entering the email with a typo.
I encourage you to go to our Software page and give it a try. It’s very easy. I promise. And if not, you can do like me, get up from your PC, take a little walk, have a cold drink, and try again.
Meanwhile, I am already feeling better from the rant.