A Potentially Serious Problem With Autodesk Freewheel

I think I may have found a potentially serious problem with Autodesk Freewheel. After publishing my last post titled “How To Embed A 3D DWF Into A Blog Post” I visited my blog to see how the 3D DWF looked like. I was quite surprised to see that the rose was the “one big gray lump of crap” that I mentioned in my post. I had previously uploaded the uncolored 3D DWF published from AutoCAD to my server to check it out in Autodesk Freewheel. But then I later replaced it with the colored one that I got from Inventor. So how could I be still seeing the old uncolored 3D DWF file?

Click the following link.

http://freewheel.autodesk.com/dwf.aspx?path=http://www.deelip.com/models/2010-05-03-Rose.dwf&mode=ViewOnly

You should see an uncolored rose in the Autodesk Freewheel web based viewer in your browser window. If you study the link closely you will see that I have pointed Autodesk Freewheel to a DWF file called 2010-05-03-Rose.dwf on my server. The thing is that file no longer exists on my server. It used to exist once upon a time. But not any more.

I believe this is what is happening. When Autodesk Freewheel is asked to render a DWF file, it downloads a copy of the file from the source (in this case my server) and then does not bother to check if it has been updated or even deleted. That’s why the link above still works in spite of the DWF file not being present on my server anymore. I think this is a big problem. Not because my data is being copied to Autodesk servers. Like I have said on this blog before, for CAD to work properly on the cloud, the computing and data needs to reside on the same server. And that’s fine with me. But since the source of the data was located on a different server, Freewheel should have at least checked whether the source data has changed or if it still exists before continuing to display the model.

Consider a scenario wherein you are collaborating with someone using Autodesk Freewheel. You upload a DWF file to your server with the idea that you will delete it later so that others do not have access to it. That is simply not going to happen because Autodesk will continue to serve your model even after you have deleted it off your server. Not just that, say you are collaborating in real time with others, making changes to your model and keep publishing DWF’s to your server, everyone will continue to see the first version of your model and not the subsequent changes that you made, even if they refresh the browser. To me this appears to be a design flaw in the Autodesk Freewheel architecture. I am pretty sure that Autodesk has the best of intentions here. But I believe that this is an issue that needs to be solved.

I can understand why Autodesk may be doing this. Getting a file time and date stamp or similar information of the source file every time a user interacts with a model maybe an unnecessary operation that will introduce a further time lag. But think that this problem can be solved by means of an idle time process continuously running parallel on the server checking which files are out of date or missing. I don’t think such a thing is in place right now because its been a couple of hours since I posted that post and I can still see my uncolored rose.