Free software is too dear (importing from cadence allegro)


#1

Dear KiCAD developers!

I’ve installed KiCAD 4.06/64-bit on my Win7 machine just to see what it is capable of. In particular, I was interested in its auto-router performance. Installation went smoothly. It even asked me if I want to install foot print libraries (near ly a 1G of space). I said OK, go ahead. But then:

  1. Attempt to open any footprint in a footprint viewer without connection to internet lead to something like this:
    “ ERROR: http GET command failed Cannot get/download Zip archive: ‘https://codeload.github.com/KiCad/Varistors.pretty/zip/master’ for library path: ‘https://github.com/KiCad/Varistors.pretty’. Reason: 'IO_ERROR: curl_easy_perform()=6: Couldn’t resolve host name from C:/Jenkins/workspace/windows-kicad-msys2-stable/ … blah-blah-blah”

The question is – why to ask about installation of any footprints if all of them are still have to be downloaded from somewhere?

  1. Attempt to import a session file created by Allegro PCB Router v16-6-112 lead to following:
    PARSE ERROR: ‘< month > < day > < hour > : < minute >: < second > < year > …”
    From the line’s offset in the error message, seems like it didn’t’ like the hour in line
    (created_time Jul 17 01:20:03 2017 ), - probably leading zero?

  2. Attempt to import another session file created by FreeRouting lead to following:
    “PARSE ERROR: Expecting “(“ in input source…” for line like this:
    (component ‘MOLEX 505110-1692_J135’
    right at the start of 505110, and after MOLEX.

  3. Attempt to import DXF created by Cadence “Layout-To-DXF” lead to appearance in the screen something remotely resembling the original board, yet shown with tiny scale and very fat lines, so totally useless.

  4. And, finally, attempt to uninstall this software went very well. So installation and uninstallation are the only 100% working features I managed to discover so far.
    Even though I appreciate all the effort that has been done by undoubtedly talented and dedicated community of programmers, it’s just another example of that commercial software is usually worth its money.

kind regards and best of luck
Alex


#2

This is a user forum. Very few developers visit here. Contacting developers is best done via bug reports over at launchpad.
https://bugs.launchpad.net/kicad
Keep it at one feature/bug per bug report. (This would be a good idea here as well. Most people only read the title of the conversation and decide based on that if they can help.)

It asks for the installation of symbol and 3d model libraries. In the current version only footprint libraries are setup to be downloaded directly from github.
This is something that will hopefully change in future versions of kicad. (Either everything directly from github or nothing. I would like to see more user control over when an update happens. Work is done in that direction.)
You can setup local footprint libs. Have a look at the tutorial by @bobc

Importing files form other software packages is not the core function of any tool.
Additionally most proprietary formats are intentionally made hard to read and badly documented. This is done such that users can’t simply switch to other software.

For support of FreeRouting (I assume you mean the open source auto router, that is not actively developed any more) have a look at the many posts here on this forum. See for example one of the more recent posts

Well one positive point at least. The strength of kicad does not really lie in the fields you tested. In my opinion currently the best feature is the interactive router.


#3

I suppose that when you buy something, you take time to learn the tools you bought…
That is also the required method for open source tools…

Before deciding on the product, you have to spend some time to learning … but it seems to me you are not here for that purpose :wink:


#4

That would be the space in the name, which is not allowed


#5

Hi there. I see you using windows. Me too, but I think that Linux is similar however the footprint library table is in a different place. The installation of the libraries seems a bit obscure under windows. The libraries are all installed along with the program.

Ki cad installs all the library files in Drive:\root_path\Kicad\share\kicad\modules. Root path is the location of the installed files you selected, and may be “Program_Files” or just C:\ dependent on where you installed the files.

The fp-lib-table is installed in Drive:\users\user_name\AppData\Roaming\kicad. By default this points to the on-line libraries at Github. You can check it with notepad (but I prefer Notepad++). You will see the installed paths like this:

(lib (name Air_Coils_SML_NEOSID)(type Github)(uri ${KIGITHUB}/Air_Coils_SML_NEOSID.pretty)(options “”)(descr “Deprecated - will be removed”))
(lib (name Buttons_Switches_SMD)(type Github)(uri ${KIGITHUB}/Buttons_Switches_SMD.pretty)(options “”)(descr “Buttons and switches, surface mount”))
(lib (name Buttons_Switches_THT)(type Github)(uri ${KIGITHUB}/Buttons_Switches_THT.pretty)(options “”)(descr “Buttons and switches, through hole”))
(lib (name Buzzers_Beepers)(type Github)(uri ${KIGITHUB}/Buzzers_Beepers.pretty)(options “”)(descr “Audio signalling devices”))

This is the first few entries in the default table.

I had to rename that to fp-lib-table.old, then copy and paste the fp-lib-table.for-pretty from Drive:\root_path\Kicad\share\kicad\templates. I then deleted the ".for-pretty extension.
This stops the system from using only the githib libraries on line.
They now read like this:

(lib (name Buttons_Switches_SMD)(type KiCad)(uri ${KISYSMOD}/Buttons_Switches_SMD.pretty)(options “”)(descr “Buttons and switches, surface mount”))
(lib (name Buttons_Switches_THT)(type KiCad)(uri ${KISYSMOD}/Buttons_Switches_THT.pretty)(options “”)(descr “Buttons and switches, through hole”))
(lib (name Buzzers_Beepers)(type KiCad)(uri ${KISYSMOD}/Buzzers_Beepers.pretty)(options “”)(descr “Audio signalling devices”))
(lib (name Capacitors_SMD)(type KiCad)(uri ${KISYSMOD}/Capacitors_SMD.pretty)(options “”)(descr “Capacitors, surface mount”))

Note that (type Github)(uri ${KIGITHUB} has changed to (type KiCad)(uri ${KISYSMOD} in every case, and that the path is that selected in configure paths on the Kicad home page: C:\KiCad\share\kicad\modules (in my install)

Next, re-open Kicad. Select the library manager on the home page. In preferences, run the wizard and select the files on my computer option. Point to Drive:\root_path\Kicad\share\kicad\modules and run the wizard. If you want all the files, install to the global library option and wait, or select the files you really want. The others can be added later if needed.

This should then update the fp-lib-table to point to the modules in the correct location.

Certainly on windows it is a bit of a long winded process, but once installed it seems to work very well, but double check multiple bases like T0-92, T0-18 and similar base layouts, e,b & c, s g d a1,a2, k are not always correct for the transistor you are using, as there are so many variations. Beware of imported circuits from earlier versions as the generic diode as swapped ends between versions.
It is a learning cliff, like any new program, but does work well once its quirks are understood.
If you wish to back annotate the components it is necessary to export the .cmp file from PCB new then add the definitions to the schematic. Then re-run netlist generator to update the CvPcb file, again a bit long winded but it does work.

It worked for me anyway.

For a free program (bear in mind that something like UltiMate costs over £ 2K and is not much easier to drive) it is great and community support is usually helpful.

Good luck and keep on trying.


#6

That’s not true. The spaces inside of strings are allowed and the part of spec. If to read SPECCTRA spec (“Allegro® PCB Router Design Language Reference”), what I did after your comment, - it said clearly that the inverted comma “ ‘ ” is the delimiter for strings, which do contain spaces in the name.
See: “PARSER” descriptor inside of the SPECCTRA spec and its sub-descriptor
(space_in_quoted_tokens [on | off])


#7

No, it works actually opposite with most of commercial software.
You are offered usually a free test-drive before buying things. And if it falls apart right at the very few simple actions anybody tries to perform (like reading and parsing text files, - not any proprietary formats! )- – nobody buys such a piece of art and doesn’t bother learning more complicated features of it. Not me, anyway.
Saying so I didn’t want to start here another holly war on open source vs commercial stuff, as I do appreciate what the KiCAD developers do and already did. It’s definitely their passion!
Yet, regarding the other comment that software shouldn’t care much about being able to import other formats (some of them de-facto standards) and be compatible with some popular tools, - it is a clear way to marketing failure, IMHO. Any relatively new product must be compatible with the already existing project base, created in variety of CAD tools, and be able at least read them. It’s very important feature, if one doesn’t want to start form scratch everything. What should it be able to export – it’s another question. Once it becomes popular – let other new and future CADs bother about being able to read its own formats ))

Thanks for everybody’s’ answers, anyway and have a good day!


#8

in the free test-drive you are supposed to take time to learn how to use it… that was I meant…
anyway have a good day too :smiley:


#9

I didn’t say it is not important. I did state that most proprietary tools make it intentionally hard to implement such things. (They want to force you do use their tools indefinitely. If you can easily switch to another software there is no need for you to buy their expensive licenses.)

I think if enough people need something, there is a chance it might be implemented. (Because one of them needs it badly enough to bother implementing it themselves.) This is basically how open source works.


#10

Everyone thinks their own use case is “very important”, even if only 1% of users ever use that feature.

What always baffles me is that people think that Open Source projects have a “marketing” department, whose job it is to increase the “user base”. OTOH, people expect software to be bug free. If you turn those two around, you get a more realistic idea.

I suppose the problem is that the only model people have for software is commercial software, which gives people a lot of wrong ideas about Open Source projects. Because they have never met community created software, they fall back to unrealistic expectations more in line with commercial projects.

It’s a bit unfortunate that the term “Free Software” coined by Richard Stallman makes people think “this is like commercial software, but I don’t have to pay for it!” which gives people several wrong ideas. Perhaps if it was called something “Community Software”, or “You Get Back What You Put Into It Software”, might give a better idea.

Of course, free software is free as in speech, not free as in beer. In practice, you have to “pay” something, either some of your time or by contributing IP if you choose to publish a modified version.

All software has bugs. One think I do before choosing software is to check out the user community. Often a helpful community outweighs deficiencies in the software.


#11

You’re not the target group of the KiCAD marketing team.
KiCAD targets the hobbyist/tinkerer/amateur spectrum of the audience and is absolutely into dudes who can wrap up their sleeves and pitch in here or there.
:nerd:


#12

Absolutely disagree. We are using Kicad for professional work since 2005.

Absolutely agree here :slight_smile:


#13

+1
and KiCad is in use at some Universities and it is growing :wink:


#14

I didn’t mean that KiCAD can’t be used there… but I don’t think the developers are out to go head-to-head with the dearer commercial tools (yet).
The OP seems to expect stuff from KiCAD that the developers just don’t have on their agenda (yet).
His expectations and pet-peeves are not catered for and probably wont be until someone needs that feature badly enough and sits down and implements it. The mindset of the OP will hinder him to be part of this process, so he and alike’s (at least at the moment) are not sought after targets for KiCAD.

PS: If he was in the target group he wouldn’t have started his OP as he did.

Is there any official flyer?
I feel like dropping some off at our IoT lab… they seem to focus on Altium.


#15

Highlighting the key word.

Allegro , Autocad DXF etc might be commonly used, but they are not standards as their formats are not fully published. Licenced access to the protocol is usually not possible for Opensource source software.
Importing projects from another package is a minefield, for commercial software too. Basically commercial vendors have nothing to gain by simplifying export. Import is a marketing tick box and the capability is often exaggerated. Even moving to newer versions of the same software can cause unexpected problems


#16

A non-academic Altium seat is around 9k USD, 50% more than a technician earns in a year in Malaysia.
ECAD software is very expensive for Asian users. I have moved my staff to KiCad because it gets the job done and everyone can have a seat


#17

I don’t think so, but if you search from some users/developers and kicad mailing list you will get:

And I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg of a growing audience.


#18

We (regulars) always fall into the trap. I know I’m wasting my time writing this post.

I use kicad because it works. It is an excellent tool. I don’t need to compare kicad with other tools. In fact, some years ago I quit testing other ECAD programs.

We do not need to make a defense of kicad. It is out there for anyone who wants to use it, no one is forced to use it. Some people think commercial is equal to bug-free. Let them keep on thinking so. Some people demand opensource software what they don’t dare beg commercial software. Let them keep on demanding.

Most of us are here to help and being helped. But I’m not here to persuade anyone to use kicad. I’m not at all a kind of priest.

Could kicad be better? Sure. Has kicad some quirks? Sure. Sometimes it needs a workaround? Sure. But it lets me do anything I have needed so far to make a good pcb.


#19

^^ this :smiley:

“You get what you pay for” is the adage, but I think it is fair to say with KiCad, you get a lot more than you pay for. According to OpenHub.net, you are getting around $12 million worth of software.

That site also illustrates just how relatively small the KiCad project is, which people perhaps don’t realize. Compare it to Mozilla Firefox, which they suggest is worth $287 million. Bill Gates said Windows Vista cost $6 billion to create.


#20

Let me also jump into the discussion just as another (commercial) example.
I am currently at a research institute that uses Altium Designer. We work on (civil) radar systems in the 120GHz or even 240 GHz or above frequency range using our own custom designed ASICs.
While I have to say that Altium is very powerful, it certainly has it’s limited. Concerning digital design stuff, I would say it is a very good professional package, giving you an internal signal integrity checks and advanced stuff like this.

However Altium fails horribly, when it comes to importing and using distributed HF structures. Imports are buggy, imprecise (very coarse approximation of DXF splines) and tedious, even with the methods that are explained on the Altium website. One thing that drove me crazy was the layout of a substrate integrated waveguide (see https://www.microwaves101.com/encyclopedias/substrate-integrated-waveguide), which is basically two rows of Vias between two closed copper layers, that have a constant distance to each other (no matter what the line-shape of your waveguide is). There is virtually no practical way, except than handplacing, to generate these kind of structures.

Next year I am planning to startup a company with a friend of mine, in the same topical field and I am currently looking around for software that we can use.

  1. It has to be cheap (or free), since this is a startup afterall
  2. It has to work natively on Linux (which Altium does not btw), because Linux is also free
  3. If it is open source, this might actually be a huge advantage, so we are actually able to add features that we want and need for our purposes (SIW generator from above…)
  4. We are not afraid of programming and plan on giving back to the community
  5. We can tolerate on using nightly builds in our first company years. We see the KiCAD development as “strongly uptrending” for the future.
  6. Considering that with CERN, there is our income tax money at work (We are from Germany), we want our company to profit from this tax money. Also I donated some money to them :slight_smile: Yay Research!

And that is why I started looking around here (not too long ago). And why I have started to develop the Via Fence generator python plugin for KiCAD (as a proof of concept), which as of the time writing this is already functional on a basic level. (See https://github.com/skuep/kicad-plugins). This is something that would be completely impossible (maybe with a lot of pain…) with the Altium software.

Btw: We also had EAGLE on our radar, since it is pretty good for the stuff we want to do, it even runs on Linux and has a nice scripting interface. I have been using EAGLE in private for 10 years+. However, with the current license changes, this is not a debatable option for us to start a company with. Under no circumstances.

Just my 2 cents. Thanks for everyone helping in the development of KiCAD. Some years ago I thought not differently from bear2012. I guess that is just what the world looks like to everyone, with commercial software everywhere. Once I got my head around the whole Open Source thing, i just like it. But: As everyone else said here already: (Just like us) you must not be afraid of getting your own hands dirty when you actually want to have a specific feature. This is the “cost” of Open Source software. Full Stop!