What's New From Artwork Conversion
October 20, 1995
by Steve DiBartolomeo
1995 has been a banner year for Artwork. We spent over a year
building and refining our first Windows' program What we learned during that
time will enable us to move the rest of our translators and viewers to
Windows quickly and efficiently. Our ASM 500 for Windows family has become a
giant hit with existing and new customers.
1995 has also seen the emergence of a second blockbuster program: GDSPLOT, a low cost GDSII
plotting software supporting the new generation of inkjet plotters. Companies such as Motorola, NEC, Hyundai, Silicon Systems, and
HP have evaluated our package
and selected GDSPLOT.
In the spring of 1994 we installed Windows NT 3.1 and started rewriting our software
for Windows. At that time we estimated 2 months to shipment. Whew! The first
ASM 500 for Windows shipped in January/February 1995 and didn't really get solid
until April 95. We made a lot of decisions - some right some wrong.
- Go full 32 bit from day one- no 16 bit development.
- Ignore Windows 95 until actual release date.
- Not throwing enough resources at Windows up front.
- Should have invested in more developer training up front.
- Porting our most popular and sophisticated program first.
Complicating matters are significant differences between the NT programming
environment and Windows 3.1. Writing plotter drivers alone consumed several months. Is Bill G. singlehandedly keeping the world's economy going? I call Windows 95 the Programmers Full Employment Act of 1995.
Where We Stand on Windows Today
We have two full time NT developers running NT 3.51, a dedicated W95 machine, and
a dedicated W3.1 machine for testing in our Southern California development office. The
machines are fully networked to Sun and HP Workstations via TCP/IP and NFS. We're running PCNFS on Windows 3.1/95, Beame and Whiteside's NFS on NT. We use MS Visual C++
2.0 and associated stuff and have just started using MFC.
We had to write our own high speed display routines
as Microsoft's are woefully inadequate for fast
display of the hundreds of thousands of polygons, circles
and lines used in GBRVU and GDSVU.
The Development Team
Eric Chan specializes in user interfaces, Jaime Mendez in display/plot drivers. Antonio and Siu Nin, working primarily on UNIX, supervise the porting of translation engines to the Windows environment.
We're currently porting ASM 3500, GDSVU, GDSPLOT and MTOOLS to Windows.
We've adjusted our source code and practices so that the same binary supports Windows
3.1, 95 and NT. A few compromises had to be made - we obviously cannot use
NT features not available on 3.1 or 95. We also need to ship some specific hardware key drivers for 95 and NT.
Network Floating License for Windows
We own a toolkit that enables us to offer network
floating licenses on Windows with Novell, NT and UNIX servers. Priorities like getting our programs to run well have relegated implementation to the back burner. The issue is working its way slowly up the priority list. You really want/need floating licenses? Put your "money where your mouth is." A large order wonderfully focusses the mind.
Many Servers/Many Clients
What complicates the floating licenses is that there are three popular servers:
Windows NT, Novell Netware and UNIX (mostly Sun/HP); there are three clients:
Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows NT. The permutations and installation
problems are significant.
Initially we will support:
- networks supporting transfer via TCP/IP
- Winsock interface to TCP/IP on the PC side
Normally NT servers and UNIX based servers can be setup this way. This
leaves out Novell initially, which uses IPX/SPX, NetBeui, and DECnet. We have Novell license tools but no Novell network, which makes development,testing and support difficult.
- License Servers on SunOS, Solaris, HPUX and NT
Our License Server currently runs on all of these platforms. Other platforms
are possible, but would incur a special charge in order to put the license
server on them.
- Clients (i.e. applications) on Windows 3.1 and Windows NT
We haven't done enough testing to know how W95 will work with our current tools.
If it is no problem we will add support immediately.
Pricing on Floating License
We haven't made a final determination; we are leaning towards
15 to 40% adder above a key locked version (the more expensive programs at 15% the
under $500 programs at 40%). No steep discounts on additional copies of floating
licenses will be offered.
Other Restrictions on Floating License
Additionally, we will limit a floating license usage to a single contiguous location. We discovered
one of our programs that sold with a floating license was in use in Singapore, California and Texas, since the customer has divisions all over the world. While this customer was perfectly within his rights to use the software, we are likely to sell a lot fewer licenses if this behavior becomes commonplace. We will either have to raise prices or restrict the license to a local department. We haven't figured the exact wording
of the license, or extent of the restrictions. Our floating license software does
have the ability to restrict execution to a specific network submask should we desire to
implement that feature. It is difficult to come up with pricing schemes that
are fair to both developer and user. Your remarks are welcome.
New Internet Link: email, ftp, WEB
In September this year we invested several thousand dollars
in bringing up a new Internet connection. We installed a
full time, 64Kb ISDN connection to a Sun Sparc server and
- email to sales, support and even developers (try firstname.lastname@example.org)
- High speed ftp site for picking/getting files and info (ftp artwork.com)
- WEB server for data sheets, application notes and news (www.artwork.com)
If your reading this on our WEB site skip this. All
documents we prepare from now on will be available on our
WEB site, on paper and ASCII text format for
those of you who have only email.
Personally I feel that the Internet, while containing much
hype, will be an incredible tool for small software developers
like us and of course, our customers. If your company isn't
connected push to do so. Get your own account at home - it
takes time to learn to use the Net. I'm actually writing
this part of the newsletter at home on a Windows based HTML
editor; I'll remote log-in to my workstation, move
the file to the correct area, update related files to point
to it and be done. Later at the office I'll convert the HTML
version to ASCII text for email clients, then pour it into
Ventura Publisher for a paper newsletter.
Electronic Manuals to Follow
We'll need several months just to get our entire datasheet
and app notes into HTML. After that's done we'll start putting
new manuals and manual updates onto the WEB.
MTOOLS 3.0 Upgrade and NT Port
In 1990 Artwork inked a two page OEM agreement with EEsof to supply
MTOOLs a suite of translators from EEsof's msk file format
to Gerber, DXF, GDSII and IGES. We've supplied over 500
licenses since that time on DOS, SunOS, Solaris and HPUX.
When Hewlett Packard bought EEsof a couple of years ago,
a grand plan was proposed to unify HP's MDS with EEsof's
Series IV. MTOOLs was to be a casualty of this
new merged product.
We stopped all work on enhancing MTOOLs, other
than bug fixes figuring to move on to greener
pastures. MTOOLS sales trickled down to almost nothing.
But Cretheus, the god of small software developers smiled
down upon us: a year later, sales of MTOOLs licenses turned up, rumblings of merging Series IV/MDS faded. On a crisp autumn morning the call came from HP to Artwork asking us to port MTOOLs to NT.
Not only will we port MTOOLS to NT we are going to do a
major, major upgrade and call it MTOOLS 3.0.
ASM 1250 MSK to Gerber
- Motif GUI on UNIX
- Gerber's RS274X Specification: polygon fill, embedded apertures.
- MDA's FIRE 9000 Autoplot:outer/inner polygons with POEX and POIN.
- Barco's DPF format (optional add on)
GBRVU Gerber View/Plot Utility
- Views Gerber, MSK, RS274X and MDA
- Improved Plotter drivers including HP/Calcomp Inkjets
Mask to DXF
- Scale Factor
- AutoCAD R13 Support
Look for MTOOLS 3.0 by year end. As usual, those with
valid support contracts will be able to receive it at
no additional charge. Credit will be offered for DOS
to NT and DOS to UNIX platform upgrades if support is current.
Special exceptions will be made for DOS licenses. Those who have
let their MTOOLS support lapse need to contact Courtney
Byrd (nee McGuire) to settle their accounts.
ASM 500 - New Gerber Doings
A large amount of our efforts during the last year have been
spent on porting the ASM 500 family to Windows and concurrently
adding features our customers have needed. These include:
Enhancements that require new user interface are not appearing in the DOS
version. Enhancements that are available through improved translation
engine revisions are included.
- 10X speed up (v5.23 Aug 95)
- improved circular interpolation support (v5.28)
- R13 support (v5.01)
- Longer Text Strings Supported (v5.24)
- More Complex Fonts Support (v5.24, 5.28)
- Increased # of vertices that can be filled to 1024 (v5.28 Oct 95)
- User defined offset of output data
Those of you who are still running v4.62 of ASM 500/501/502 should
seriously consider updating to 5.28. This is a solid release, supports
AutoCAD R13 files, large files, is fast, efficient and will give you
great service for as long as you stay on DOS. Contact Courtney if your
support contract is expired.
Since most of our development effort for the past year was concentrated
on Windows, every new feature is first available on this platform.
- Everything mentioned above for DOS
- Outline Font Fill; great for silkscreened panels(v5.24, v5.28)
- RS274X Output (5.24)
- MDA Autoplot Output (5.24)
- GBRVU - Gerber Area Fill Emulation
- GBRVU - fixed HPGL plotter Driver
- GBRVU - additional aperture list translators, Mentor, Allegro, Protel, PADS
ASM 500 on UNIX lies between DOS and Windows. We'll need to implement MOTIF in UNIX in
order to catch up with some of the Windows functions that require extensive
- Everything mentioned above for DOS
- Everything mentioned for Windows (but add one to three months for release)
Batch Translation Service
EGS, DXF, ME-10
Using our EGS, MI and DXF translators Artwork has refined the art/science of massive batch
translations - by massive, we mean 1,000 to 50,000 files. We've been doing 1-2 such
projects per month during 1995. We've specialized in EGS, ME-10 and DXF translations.
Batch translations involve more than just running a bunch of files through a translator. Since
the quantity of files is too large to verify manually, one needs extremely good tools to
detect and correct problems in the input data. Over the years Antonio Morawski, our
specialist in batch translations, has written powerful in-house programs that do this. Some are
written in awk, some in sed and some in C. We can find and correct file, component and layer naming violations (UNIX to DOS), detect missing reference files, detect multiple versions of the same file
in different directories. We can also perform some exotic services such as converting
a Pascal SRM disk image (a common backup method used by EGS designers essentially unusable to anyone else) to a file by file database.
Our most ambitious project to date has been the conversion of 15,000 EGS files to AutoCAD R13 for Westbond in
Southern California. This task was made more difficult by an order of magnitude since Westbond uses
external reference files in EGS, and wanted to preserve the external links in AutoCAD. First hurdle -
the EGS archive process actually destroys the external reference links and merges all the library elements
into the file; exactly what we don't want. Antonio had to write a very sophisticated program to identify and
save all external references directly from the binary data, create the archive files, remove the
merged data, convert to DXF, re-insert the external reference links into the DXF and then import
into AutoCAD. After weeks of programming and testing the first dry run on Westbond's file ran
continuously for three days on two HP 700 workstations running in parallel. Whew!
Considering doing your own mass translation? Better talk to us first. We can probably do it for
10X less than your own real cost and 10X as fast. Call us before you're knee deep in sh--.
References provided upon request.
New Staff, New Offices, New Equipment
Rebecca Kiser joined Artwork in September as our new customer service person. Rebecca temp'd for us early this year while Courtney Byrd was on maternity leave. We liked her and customers liked her so much, that when our business expanded I asked her to come back full time. I had to outbid another
local Santa Cruz company for her services but it was well worth it. Rebecca is also a member of the first group of students at the new University of California at Monterey Bay, working on a business degree and submits homework by email...I guess she can't claim the dog ate her homework.Courtney Byrd came back in April after
three months of maternity leave. Courtney is handling accounting and all software support transactions. Her
new baby girl, Sierra, is cute, healthy and keeps Courtney pretty busy. We hope you'll be able to visit
with Courtney at the next local trade show, the PCB expo, March 96 in Santa Clara.
New Offices. Artwork has leased an additional 660 square feet that has become available in our building. After 6 years I'll finally get my own office and a view of the parking lot. We hope to re-arrange the office in early November.
New EquipmentWe've added a couple of 85 Mhz Sparc 5s with 64 Mbytes of RAM; one in Southern Calif for
development and one in Santa Cruz for the IC plotting service, and for MOTIF testing and support. Sun Microsystems gives developers a super deal on machines. My hat's off to Sun. Santa Cruz
got a disk duplicator and a specially configured PC with 4 floppy 3.5 diskette drives to speed up diskette
duplication. We also spent several thousand dollars in Santa Cruz for a multi-user customer database. It will
probably take us a couple of months to get up to speed but customers will get faster service since the
second you call, any member of the staff will be able to look you up by customer name, company, program
We've appointed a new distributor in the Netherlands and Belgium to complement those covering
Germany, France and Scandinavia. They are very experienced in PCB design and offer their own Gerber Editor program throughout Europe. Please welcome:
Peter Jan Kuiper, Sales Manager
Tel 31 21 552 5038
Fax 31 21 552 9385
Artwork Conversion Software, Inc.
417 Ingalls St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Tel (831) 426-6163
Fax (831) 426-2824
BBS (831) 426-3825
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