Tag: CAD

Before I Say CAD, Let Me Just Say This

Continuing on from CAD Applications on Linux:

Before I chime in on what I think would make a CAD application successful on Linux… perhaps I should back it up. I’d like to clear the air on what it is I’m talking about when I say “CAD”. I believe this is the most important definition for the Linux community to grasp hold of and understand clearly.

CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design or Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD), and CAD software uses computer technology to create, assist and manage a design and its documentation.

An easy question to ask yourself, if you’re wondering whether or not CAD software is required, is, “Am I creating something?” Typically, if something’s being created, it will be subject to a level of designing. And if something is to be designed, it’s likely to change. And it’s precisely the changing, which calls for the use of computer technology. Computers can manage the change of a design much more efficiently than we humans can, but for computer technology to efficiently aid us, we must consider the kind of designing we’re performing. After all, someone has to tell the computer what to do. How you design a road isn’t the same as designing a bridge. Designing a house isn’t the same as designing an automobile. It’s these differences in the type of designing we do which brings us an overwhelming amount of software applications divided by industry and tasks, targeted for specific design methods.

If categorizing CAD software by tasks, we’d recognize 2D vector (or drafting) applications, 3D modelling applications, animation applications, analysis, GIS server software, etc. If categorizing CAD software by industry, we’d recognize the architectural, engineering, construction and manufacturing industries, among others. And if you take the manufacturing industry alone, think of all the different things that could be manufactured and the specialized software that may exist because of the differences between these things. Further, not all software is tuned for just one industry or one task. Often, many tasks are utilized within an industry, or many industries rely on one or two specific tasks.

This plethora of “CAD” can be a good thing as well as a bad thing. The Good? CAD technology can be harnessed and tuned to do so many different things; affording us a quick way to build something, a way to communicate a complicated design, a way to determine whether or not something is safe or a way of proving that an idea will work in the real world, and of course managing how these ideas change along the way. The Bad?


People have been known to bastardize the acronym in ways such as, “I need someone to CAD this up.” or “Yeah, I do CAD.” We’re placing too much meaning on the acronym and it’s leading to too much confusion. And rightfully so! It’s easier to say “CAD” than it is to describe what finite element analysis is in the context of parametric solid modelling in the manufacturing industry. It’s easier to say “CAD” than it is to describe what grading is in the context of pattern making for the fashion industry. It’s easier to say “CAD” than it is to describe a graphics pipeline in the context of rendering for the animation industry. And really, by saying “CAD”, it is actually describing these things correctly; just very generally.

So… not so much a problem with the technology itself; more to do with humans, right?

Right. We all have this little switch in our head that flicks off the moment we become disinterested in the information we’re receiving, and it causes our ears to work less with our mind. (Here’s where I thank you if you’re still following me.) So I’ve learned that I have to tune the way I communicate what I do to the ears that are listening. The way I describe what I do to my mother isn’t going to sound the same as how I describe my craft in a job interview. And on the flip side, from an interviewer’s point of view; just because I may be an expert in 2D drafting, doesn’t necessarily mean I’d be hired as a Render Wrangler, but both applicants may be CAD Technologists.

In other words, a certain type of attention needs to be paid to the way CAD is communicated because it’s capable of being received in so many different ways; its capable of meaning so many different things. I believe the same level of attention needs to be paid within the Linux community.

What’s the context?
What is being performed?
For who?

The more effort placed in communicating precisely what form of CAD technology is being done, the greater chance there is for the Linux community to do what they do best, hopefully leading to a true suite of CAD software available on Linux.

CAD Applications on Linux

I’m relatively new to Linux. My first experience with Linux was configuring a dual-boot setup with Windows XP and Ubuntu back in 2008. Dissatisfied with what Ubuntu and Linux had to offer then, I attempted again in early 2011. Again, I was dissatisfied. Round three, I’m surrounded by all things Linux. I have a Synology NAS, Nexus 5, Nexus 7, LG G4, my Ultrabook running only openSUSE and my desktop dual-booting openSUSE and Windows 10. Am I, now, still dissatisfied?

Well… that leads to a complicated answer…

I would first need to explain where I was dissatisfied back in 2008. It was a pretty significant year for me, considering my main jam: AutoCAD. I had transitioned my way through AutoLISP and gained traction with AutoVBA programming and had began to peruse the ObjectARX SDK. AutoCAD had a foothold on dynamic blocks for a couple years, and had just introduced annotative objects and data extraction. These were big milestones for Autodesk and it positively impacted my work. And in my opinion, AutoCAD still had its own degree of identity… this was before it had adopted Microsoft’s ribbon user interface. Among all this geeky reminiscing… what I’m trying to express is that if I had any interest or investment in computer technology… it was in the realm of computer-aided design technology.

Actually… it still is, and that’s what makes this Linux satisfaction answer so complicated, because at the time, I couldn’t utilize the same CAD technology I was used to, yet there was a sense of freedom in using Linux.

I am very satisfied witnessing Linux evolve into what it is now, since 2008. Though, I remain dissatisfied to see that CAD applications haven’t evolved much. And it’s this reason why I maintain my desktop workstation with Windows 10; simply to utilize Autodesk software. But even admitting that I continue to run Windows 10 just for Autodesk software causes me to feel shame.

In my 8 years experimenting and familiarizing myself with Linux, I have become more familiar with the kernel concept and the different types of software licenses, and have consequently grown a huge respect and admiration for free and open source software. Throughout the same time, I have witnessed Autodesk products, AutoCAD specifically, evolve in parallel with Microsoft and increasingly bloat their software to a point where it seems adverse to what made AutoCAD so valuable in the first place. Really… what am I holding onto? In principle, I would rather uphold free and open source software. And in logic, I believe the more highly cohesive and loosely coupled software to be more efficient, valuable and functional. So specifically… why am I holding onto Autodesk products?

You could say, perhaps, it’s because my education and experience revolves almost entirely around Autodesk products. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Autodesk doing what they’re doing and me following suit. You could also say it’s because organizations revolve almost entirely around Autodesk products too, and this certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Or you could say it’s simply because Linux CAD applications bite.

And they do.

Not exactly a great way to begin making friendships with Linux developers… I certainly don’t mean to slight anyone or discount the time and energy that’s been placed into the open source CAD applications, but I believe that the Linux community has opportunity to do so much better. I believe the community is already better, and that Autodesk is providing the community a stage, considering the direction they’re moving. I simply wish the CAD FOSS reflected it. In fact, 8 years has shown me I need free and open source CAD software.

I am willing to move away from Autodesk products. I am so close. And that statement I made above, that shouldn’t be taken lightly; I really do believe organizations too, large or small, can transition to open source software in the right conditions.

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