What's New From Artwork Conversion

October 20, 1995
by Steve DiBartolomeo
Applications Manager

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.

Windows 3.1/95/NT

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.

Good Decisions

Bad Decisions
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.

Unified 3.1/95/NT

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:

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 offer:

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.

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.
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.


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 user input.