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What we want from software vendors (Was: CAD software for PCB engineering and routing)

2008/6/21 Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso <jordigh@gmail.com>:
> On 21/06/2008, Dotan Cohen <dotancohen@gmail.com> wrote:
>>  I personally would be satisfied paying thousands of dollars for
>>  Solidworks and not having access to the source code so long as it runs
>>  on my OS.
> I think this is rather nearsighted. Although for what I do,
> mathematics, it's easier to argue for openness of the software (a
> mathematical proof must be available and the method disclosed,
> otherwise, what kind of mathematics are we doing?), I also think it
> should be important to argue for the opennes of engineering software.
> If you buy it, I think you should also be demanding the source code.

I do not care about the source code, but I do care about my data being
in a portable format.

However, even more than that, I care about interoperating with my
colleagues. Right now, they _all_ use Solidworks. I will not hang up
my engineering degree and serve falafel until everyone is using open
source software.

> Unfortunately, it seems that many people in engineering backgrounds,
> with whom I frequently have to interact, are used to the idea of
> paying thousands of dollars for black boxes, whether it be for
> hardware and instrumentation or software. I think this is a recent
> practice, but I'm not sure. I have heard it said that in times of yore
> before companies realised that copyright laws could be used to
> restrict their software, it was standard practice to provide source to
> your customers, since the software was just the icing on the cake to
> whatever else they had purchased from you.
> This modern tendency to eschew source seems nearsighted because I have
> seen this come back to haunt engineers. More than once, I've seen
> their black boxes malfunction on them, the only people with the
> ability to fix them have left the company or are out of business, and
> then they come to us with interesting mathematics of inverse problems
> ("I have the output of this black box, how can we figure out what's
> inside?"). I feel so frustrated with this, because if only they had
> requested for source and documentation when they bought it, something
> that apparently never even crossed their minds, then their newfound
> problems would be trivial.
> This is my strongest argument for openness with engineering software,
> from a personal perspective. Duplication of efforts, with many
> companies implementing the same or similar software in their own
> secret ways (NIH syndrome) is another silly thing that happens behind
> copyright laws and non-disclosure agreements and something that
> software freedom can reduce or eliminate.
> I think you too should care about these things. I have a vested
> interest in you caring about these things, because attitudes from
> people like you not caring end up spreading to others close to my
> field of endeavour, and then we get results as insulting as this one,
> a tutorial telling us why we're too dumb to understand their complex
> internals:
>     http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematica/tutorial/WhyYouDoNotUsuallyNeedToKnowAboutInternals.html
> I do not know much about PCB software or to what extent these
> arguments apply to your own situation, but my guess is that they also
> do and that having source and the freedoms that come with it would
> also be hugely beneficial and a good long-term strategy.
> Dixi,
> - Jordi G. H.

Jordi, I in theory I agree with you. However, as any engineer will
tell you, there is a large gap between theory and practice. Right now,
I need to practice my profession.

When someone develops and maintains a FOSS solution that runs on Linux
that lets me interoperate with my Solidworks-using colleagues
flawlessly I will happily donate to the project twice what I would be
paying to Solid. That's a lot of money to motivate someone. Until they
fill that need that I have, I will continue to use the only solution
that exists, which is a proprietary solution.

Dotan Cohen


A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?

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