FreePCB compared to Eagle and others?

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Feb 21, 2005, 5:21:00 PM2/21/05
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I am looking at using the open source PCB layout software FreePCB. I
have used Eagle in the past, but I want to make a board slightly larger
than the free version will support. I searched a bit looking for
comments on FreePCB, but I don't see any. The latest note from the
developer says he has not received any bug reports on the latest
version. So it sounds like it might be usable.

Anyone had any experience with this?

in...@bostonsemiconductor.com

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Feb 24, 2005, 12:47:50 PM2/24/05
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I've tried it. It is remarkably stable, and does more than free
closed-source layout programs I've tried. It comes with a large
library of pre-defined footprints and has a built in footprint editor
that is very easy to use. There aren't many limitations in FreePCB
that I know of.

I can't compare it to Eagle, haven't used it.

-Chris

Severi Salminen

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Mar 2, 2005, 9:01:39 AM3/2/05
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in...@bostonsemiconductor.com wrote:
> I've tried it. It is remarkably stable, and does more than free
> closed-source layout programs I've tried. It comes with a large
> library of pre-defined footprints and has a built in footprint editor
> that is very easy to use. There aren't many limitations in FreePCB
> that I know of.

Does FreePCB autoroute at all? Didn't find any mention in the homepage.

Thot

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Mar 2, 2005, 11:44:15 PM3/2/05
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The Home page (http://www.freepcb.com/) says it does not have an autorouter
yer (what does it mean, BTW?, I'm a newbie....)

Luca
http://home.rochester.rr.com/lucabri/


"Severi Salminen" <severi.salminen@NOT_THISsiba.fi> wrote in message
news:7HjVd.2431$oV6...@reader1.news.jippii.net...

Severi Salminen

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Mar 3, 2005, 7:17:21 AM3/3/05
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Thot wrote:
> The Home page (http://www.freepcb.com/) says it does not have an autorouter
> yer (what does it mean, BTW?, I'm a newbie....)

Autorouter draws or tries to draw all the tracks automagically according
to the schematic. This can also be infuenced by many different rules.
This operation can also be very time consuming if the board is very
complex. But basically autorouter can save a lot of time.

Eagle, for example, has an autorouter. It can we found here:

http://www.cadsoft.de/

Don Prescott

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Mar 3, 2005, 3:21:31 PM3/3/05
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All I can say that's positive about FreePCB is it's free. Other than
that it's pretty awful. Reminds me of one of the original,
pre-historic layout products back in the 70's. It was like a system
we had based on a DEC PDP 11 in college.

But if you haven't any money then go try and use it. You might, just,
get a rudimentary PCB out of it. However, if you have a few hundred
dollars to spare then go get something that does the job properly...
Don't mess with this nonsense.

Prescott

richard

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Mar 3, 2005, 9:27:10 PM3/3/05
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A person just posted on the Forum of TARGET3001:
http://www.ibfriedrich.com/cgibin/forum_e.cgi?index=393

Hello,
I have a Target 3001! Smart v 11 license, with a 700 pin/pad limit.
I have used Target 3001 to design the schematic of the circuit I was
developing in my graduate work. As the time was not too much, I have
used the Target embedded autorouter to partly route my circuit, with
two layers, about 500 pads. Then, I have modified some autorouted
tracks, but, anyway, the autorouter has made it possible to save hours
and hours (if not a few days), and realize also the PCB with soldered
components, so I had it available on the academy board's desk. The
whole conceptual work and the final circuit project are the important
things in earning a degree, but also the physically realized circuit
was of great interest to the academy board! Thank you.

I agree, that an autorouter is really something you should think about.

Certain parts of layout, like RF or analog should be done mostly by
hand. But often circuits have a digital parts you the tool can do it
for you, much faster. Especially, if you can select traces and options
in an autorouter your result will turn out good. For how much,$59 or
$149 that is really worth the money.
..richard

Stuart Brorson

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Mar 3, 2005, 9:37:57 PM3/3/05
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Don Prescott <DMBPr...@aol.com> wrote:
: All I can say that's positive about FreePCB is it's free. Other than

: that it's pretty awful. Reminds me of one of the original,
: pre-historic layout products back in the 70's. It was like a system
: we had based on a DEC PDP 11 in college.

If the OP runs Linux, he might try looking at gEDA/PCB:

http://www.geda.seul.org/

It's becoming the cannonical free/open-source EDA suite for Linux
users.

: But if you haven't any money then go try and use it. You might, just,


: get a rudimentary PCB out of it. However, if you have a few hundred
: dollars to spare then go get something that does the job properly...
: Don't mess with this nonsense.

Don't worry about Don -- he hates any software which you can get for
free:

http://groups-beta.google.com/group/sci.electronics.cad/browse_frm/thread/b0996f4a0dcd308e/ba69b0f5ab66a751#ba69b0f5ab66a751

We all suspect that Don is a rudimentary AI application written by
Cadence or Synopsys.

I suggest that the OP try FreePCB, and then give gEDA/PCB a spin. I
can't speak for FreePCB, but I'll bet that he'll be plesantly suprised
by the quality offered by the free/open-source package gEDA/PCB.

In any event, one is always best off trying the application for
ones-self than taking advice from Usenet. My advice: Take
suggestions from Usenet posters, but form one's own opinion.

Stuart

Stuart Brorson

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Mar 3, 2005, 10:01:36 PM3/3/05
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I know it's not sporting to follow up to my own post, but I forgot to
make a point.

Stuart Brorson <s...@cloud9.net> wrote:
: I suggest that the OP try FreePCB, and then give gEDA/PCB a spin. I


: can't speak for FreePCB, but I'll bet that he'll be plesantly suprised
: by the quality offered by the free/open-source package gEDA/PCB.

gEDA/PCB also has an autorouter, so it also provides that particular
feature required for professional-quality work.

Stuart

DJ Delorie

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Mar 4, 2005, 12:11:44 AM3/4/05
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Stuart Brorson <s...@cloud9.net> writes:
> gEDA/PCB also has an autorouter,

And an autoplacer.

And a trace optimizer, not that I've gotten a lot of feedback about
what it does to your board.

Don Prescott

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Mar 5, 2005, 4:58:42 AM3/5/05
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> : But if you haven't any money then go try and use it. You might, just,
> : get a rudimentary PCB out of it. However, if you have a few hundred
> : dollars to spare then go get something that does the job properly...
> : Don't mess with this nonsense.
>
> Don't worry about Don -- he hates any software which you can get for
> free:
>

Not true. I have played with the odd game I got for free in the past.
In general though, for design tools you gets what you pay for. Some
products are remarkably good value and impressive for the money - but
money has to be involved if you are designing a fair size board that's
not locked to a specific board manufacturer.

On top of the product usually being pretty gruesome to use you tend to
get 'minor' drawbacks like you're in the middle of a job after
spending 3 weeks on it and low and behold the file is corrupt and 'cos
it's free or super cheap there ain't nobody to fix it for me. I have
to start again. Or if some feature that I need that's supposed to
work doesn't and 'cos it's open source there's nobody responsible....
So, the few hundred bucks I tried to save has been wiped-out there and
then.

I saw something on here a few weeks back where a guy claimed an
aerospace company had switched to 'open source' PCB software. Of
course the company was never named. So, here's an invitation gimme
some known companies that have switched to 'open source' on PCB
design....And NOT down in some lab at a far flung outpost, I'm talking
mainstream design. And PLEASE stick to the question - don't start
telling me about Apache servers.

Prescott

in...@bostonsemiconductor.com

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Mar 7, 2005, 9:17:11 AM3/7/05
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Don, I can understand your reluctance to view free software as having
reasonable quality if you have had experience in the past with other
free tools that corrupted data or weren't supported.

FreePCB and gEDA/PCB don't have those problems.

What free PCB tools have you used?

-Chris

Don Prescott

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Mar 8, 2005, 6:00:28 AM3/8/05
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>
> FreePCB and gEDA/PCB don't have those problems.
>
> What free PCB tools have you used?
>

These products don't produce the occasional corrupt design....? Well,
that is quite remarkable. How do you know? How many boards have you
designed with FreePCB and gEDA/PCB...?

What free board design tools have I tried.... well let's see, I tried
AutoTRAX (the new one)- it's still at beta level after about 3 years,
and it's no longer free. Erm.... the free version of Eagle. That's
not bad for a free product. But you can't count that one, it's only
useful for mickey mouse size boards in free form. I would not use a
free PCB layout product on anything that has a commercial application.
I only use products that are supported.

I haven't tried gEDA/PCB 'cos I believe it's Linux and I don't use
Linux.

My point is this, yes if you look around the web you can find a free
version of many applications, but not many people in the commercial
world care to use these products. The potential savings just aren't
worth it. OK. you're gonna say I'm wrong. The invitation is still
open - name some known commercial organisations using open source
tools for PCB Layout - (again, only PCB layout not servers, etc).

Prescott

Chuck Harris

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Mar 8, 2005, 8:39:54 AM3/8/05
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Don Prescott wrote:
>>FreePCB and gEDA/PCB don't have those problems.
>>
>>What free PCB tools have you used?
>>
>
>
> These products don't produce the occasional corrupt design....? Well,
> that is quite remarkable. How do you know? How many boards have you
> designed with FreePCB and gEDA/PCB...?
>
> What free board design tools have I tried.... well let's see, I tried
> AutoTRAX (the new one)- it's still at beta level after about 3 years,
> and it's no longer free. Erm.... the free version of Eagle. That's
> not bad for a free product. But you can't count that one, it's only
> useful for mickey mouse size boards in free form. I would not use a
> free PCB layout product on anything that has a commercial application.
> I only use products that are supported.
>
> I haven't tried gEDA/PCB 'cos I believe it's Linux and I don't use
> Linux.

That is to your shame! Even the worst distribution of Linux is better
than the best distribution of 'doze.

However, gEDA runs just fine under 'doze. The guys working on it are
hardware and software professionals. As I understand it, some of
them are even being paid by their employers to work on this project.

>
> My point is this, yes if you look around the web you can find a free
> version of many applications, but not many people in the commercial
> world care to use these products. The potential savings just aren't
> worth it. OK. you're gonna say I'm wrong. The invitation is still
> open - name some known commercial organisations using open source
> tools for PCB Layout - (again, only PCB layout not servers, etc).
>
> Prescott

You are completely missing the point. There are scads of guys running
small 1 or 2 person shops that cannot afford to spend $5000-50,000 per year to
keep a seat of [Orcad,Mentor,Cadence...] warm.

With the commercial software, you generally get *almost* exactly what you
pay for... The cheap hobby priced tools like Eagle, are just exactly that,
cheap hobby grade tools.

The gEDA tool suite aspires to be much more. You need only do a google
search on "Icarus Verilog" to get an idea of who's using the free tools,
and for what. gEDA is certainly being used by most, if not all major
universities.

-Chuck Harris

in...@bostonsemiconductor.com

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Mar 8, 2005, 9:50:58 AM3/8/05
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I strongly suggest you try these tools before you criticize them. The
tools you've tried are all trial versions of closed source, commercial
tools. Try the open source tools, you'll be surprised by how well they
perform.

If you like windows, FreePCB only runs on windows, and PCB runs happily
on windows through Cygwin.

I built 4 boards with open source PCB tools. This isn't a huge sample
size, but at least I am speaking from experience. No doubt if you
change your question to, "who out there has fabbed a board with these
tools?", you'll be flooded with response.

-Chris

DJ Delorie

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Mar 8, 2005, 10:39:25 AM3/8/05
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DMBPr...@aol.com (Don Prescott) writes:
> I would not use a free PCB layout product on anything that has a
> commercial application. I only use products that are supported.

gEDA and PCB are supported. Both have active mailing lists and
developers who are on those lists and respond to user's problems,
usually with patches. If you're going to compare OSS with proprietary
(it's a mistake to compare "free" (as in beer) to "commercial" because
those are the wrong categories - Eagle is free but proprietary, RHEL
is commercial but OSS) you should consider what kind of tech support
you *really* get for prorietary products.

When comparing support, consider these questions:

* If I find a bug, can I find out if this is a known bug or a new one?

* If I report a bug, do I know if the original programmer will see it?

* Will (or even can) the developer send me a fix in a short time?

* Can I apply these fixes myself, or do I need to reinstall everything?

* Can I get other users to help me with my problems?

* If the product's vendor goes under, can I still find support for the product?

* If all else fails, can I fix it myself or hire a contractor to do it?

Note that getting the right answer to some of these is *critical* for
large organizations which rely heavily on working EDA tools. The fact
that you have access to the tools' sources is a point in favor of OSS
- you avoid all the nasty negotiations for escrowing the proprietary
tools's sources.

Heck, if you start waving money around you'll probably find a couple
people willing to provide commercial support for gEDA/PCB. You could
probably convince *me* to provide commercial support for PCB.

> I haven't tried gEDA/PCB 'cos I believe it's Linux and I don't use
> Linux.

So? gEDA and PCB run on Windows too.

> The invitation is still open - name some known commercial
> organisations using open source tools for PCB Layout - (again, only
> PCB layout not servers, etc).

Since gEDA and PCB target small shops, perhaps this isn't a fair
request, since commercial organizations using them won't be well
known. However, as a Red Hat employee, I know of a *lot* of *large*
companies choosing OSS over proprietary because of the answers they
get for the above list of questions. For example, our group supports
GCC for embedded devices, and we normally fix customer's problems in
under 24 hours.

Don Prescott

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Mar 9, 2005, 5:18:12 AM3/9/05
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> Since gEDA and PCB target small shops, perhaps this isn't a fair
> request, since commercial organizations using them won't be well
> known.

There you go, endorses my view exactly. No disrespect, 'open source'
will undoubtedly nibble around the edges and find devotees, but
someone running a commercial operation using design tools in anger is
unlikely to want to drop 'paid-for' products and opt for 'open
source'- not for a long time anyhow....

Prescott

DJ Delorie

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Mar 9, 2005, 9:42:05 AM3/9/05
to

DMBPr...@aol.com (Don Prescott) writes:
> > Since gEDA and PCB target small shops, perhaps this isn't a fair
> > request, since commercial organizations using them won't be well
> > known.
>
> There you go, endorses my view exactly.

Your logic is flawed. Just because product X targets small shops,
does not mean that open source is inappropriate for commercial
designs. You're confusing target audience with quality.

I've seen the feature set that the BIG eda vendors are providing, and
the technology is just way more than small shops need, and it would be
a lot of effort to try to keep up with them. Even Eagle is way out of
that class, but you don't see me saying that "someone running a


commercial operation using design tools in anger is unlikely to want

to drop 'big shop' products and opt for 'Eagle'- not for a long time
anyhow....".

Paul Burke

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Mar 9, 2005, 11:40:20 AM3/9/05
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DJ Delorie wrote:

> I've seen the feature set that the BIG eda vendors are providing, and
> the technology is just way more than small shops need, and it would be
> a lot of effort to try to keep up with them. Even Eagle is way out of
> that class, but you don't see me saying that "someone running a
> commercial operation using design tools in anger is unlikely to want
> to drop 'big shop' products and opt for 'Eagle'- not for a long time
> anyhow....".

Don't forget the arse protection factor. If you spend $500000 on EDA and
it doesn't perform, it's their fault and the writs will fly. If you use
a freeware tool and it doesn't perform, you'll get fired. In point of
fact, the outcome is the same, and in the latter case you might have
learned something useful to enable you to select the next package, and
in the first case the vendor will probably win the case, but who'll
listen to your side?

Paul Burke

DJ Delorie

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Mar 9, 2005, 12:40:24 PM3/9/05
to

Paul Burke <pa...@scazon.com> writes:
> Don't forget the arse protection factor.

If the vendor goes out of business, you're better off with open source
software.

I consider this a minor point, only because vendors don't go out of
business that often.

David

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Mar 9, 2005, 2:47:36 PM3/9/05
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This is a commonly used argument in the USA, where suing people is the
national pastime. It is not such a big issue in Europe or other parts of
the world, where people tend to choose products based on things like
"cost" and "features", rather than "how easy is it to sue the vendor?".
And if you look at the fine print of the EULA on most software, all you
can sue for is the price you paid for the software, and the only thing
guarenteed is the manual won't fall apart in the first six months.


>
> Paul Burke

engr4fun

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Mar 9, 2005, 4:30:45 PM3/9/05
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>
> This is a commonly used argument in the USA, where suing people is
the
> national pastime. It is not such a big issue in Europe or other
parts of
> the world, where people tend to choose products based on things like
> "cost" and "features", rather than "how easy is it to sue the
vendor?".
> And if you look at the fine print of the EULA on most software, all
you
> can sue for is the price you paid for the software, and the only
thing
> guarenteed is the manual won't fall apart in the first six months.
>

I used to work in a software company that did work in the general EDA
field. Never had a problem with Americans. It was only Europeans who
would threaten legal action even though that only happened a couple of
times. I don't think this is an argument anywhere in private industry.
Maybe in government circles as they always try to cover their asses
there.

Mark Borgerson

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Mar 9, 2005, 7:27:00 PM3/9/05
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In article <xnwtsg9...@delorie.com>, d...@delorie.com says...
Ivex.


Mark Borgerson

Chuck Harris

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Mar 9, 2005, 10:15:24 PM3/9/05
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And let see, who did TigerCAD, and Schema, and masstek, and how many
cad companies were consumed by Orcad before they were consumed by Cadence?

-Chuck

Don Prescott

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Mar 10, 2005, 4:12:09 AM3/10/05
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> I've seen the feature set that the BIG eda vendors are providing, and
> the technology is just way more than small shops need, and it would be
> a lot of effort to try to keep up with them. Even Eagle is way out of
> that class, but you don't see me saying that "someone running a
> commercial operation using design tools in anger is unlikely to want
> to drop 'big shop' products and opt for 'Eagle'- not for a long time
> anyhow....".

I can't see anyone downgrading to Eagle. Have to say I'm not an Eagle
lover. It's made a mark through offering a cut-down version for free,
but it's quite a dated product nowadays (like so many around).

Prescott

proxy

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Mar 10, 2005, 12:39:30 PM3/10/05
to
Its not about suing companies. Its about CYA. The other poster was
being a bit artistic with his example. In the real world there is a
real concern that if you buy something other than a big name, your
career can suffer. There's even an expression, "No one ever got fired
for buying IBM". And that was not a statement of their quality.

in...@bostonsemiconductor.com

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Mar 12, 2005, 3:06:20 PM3/12/05
to
Interesting discussion, but clearly there is more than one conversation
going on. The title of the thread is "FreePCB compared to Eagle and
others?"

How many people use Eagle for commercial work as opposed to hobby /
free time / freelance? If the discussion is centered around the
broader topic of "appropriate PCB tools for mass-market commercial
use", there isn't much to say, the adoption numbers speak for
themselves.

If however, the discussion is about low priced commercial tools vs.
open source / free tools the comparisons are much more on target. My
view of Eagle is that it is just that, a low cost / low end tool.

To my mind this is entirely a risk vs. reward question; big businesses
are risk averse and well funded while small companies are risk tolerant
with smaller budgets. Those smaller budget projects are going to
evaluate open source / free tools and some will use them and some
won't.

I know there is reluctance to talk about the Linux analogies, but I
have to bring them back up. The hobbyist / enthusiast / hacker
"market" (if you want to call it that) is exactly where Linux started
out. Considering where Linux is now, my opinion is that it is foolish
to ignore the analogy for PCB CAD.

-Chris

Don Prescott

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Mar 15, 2005, 4:12:39 AM3/15/05
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> the adoption numbers speak for themselves.

What adoption numbers..?


> I know there is reluctance to talk about the Linux analogies, but I
> have to bring them back up. The hobbyist / enthusiast / hacker
> "market" (if you want to call it that) is exactly where Linux started
> out. Considering where Linux is now, my opinion is that it is foolish
> to ignore the analogy for PCB CAD.

Well where do you believe Linux is, exactly...? The mainstream is
still firmly set in Windows

Prescott

Chuck Harris

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Mar 15, 2005, 9:24:57 AM3/15/05
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^^mired^^

>
> Prescott

Not for long!

Let's see, the Chinese government has decided to make its own distribution
of linux for use in ALL Chinese government activities (this after getting
a concession from MS to allow them to view the 'doze source code). Japan
has started the same type of project. Germany is using linux in various
civil government agencies, DOD is firmly behind a secure linux product for
DOD use. IBM is firmly in the linux camp for all of its enterprise systems
(remember how Bill gained his dominance?), Dell is providing preconfigured linux
machines, KMART is providing "Lindows" machines retail, HP now has a Linux VP.
Add to that, Novell's new CLE program, Oracle's support of linux for all of
its DB products. Linux already has 1/2 of the server market... it goes on
and on.

... and even microsoft is using a linux server frontend to protect its
window's based webservers, the writing is on the wall.

-Chuck

in...@bostonsemiconductor.com

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Mar 15, 2005, 12:24:06 PM3/15/05
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Don Prescott wrote:

> Well where do you believe Linux is, exactly...? The mainstream is
> still firmly set in Windows

Not that I think it is advancing the discussion about FreePCB and Eagle
much, but here is where I think Linux is: rapidly overtaking Windows as
the operating system of choice in a wide variety of applications and
environments. Don't take my word for it, here's a snip from
BusinessWeek January 31, 2005:

"In servers, researcher IDC predicts Linux' market share based on unit
sales will rise from 24% today to 33% in 2007, compared with 59% for
Windows - essentially keeping Microsoft at its current market share for
the next three years and squeezing profit margins. ... In a survey of
business users by Forrester Research Inc., 52% said that they are now
replacing Windows servers with Linux."

-Chris

Don Prescott

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Mar 15, 2005, 4:27:42 PM3/15/05
to
>
> Not for long!
>
> Let's see, the Chinese government has decided to make its own distribution
> of linux for use in ALL Chinese government activities (this after getting
> a concession from MS to allow them to view the 'doze source code). Japan
> has started the same type of project. Germany is using linux in various
> civil government agencies, DOD is firmly behind a secure linux product for
> DOD use. IBM is firmly in the linux camp for all of its enterprise systems
> (remember how Bill gained his dominance?), Dell is providing preconfigured linux
> machines, KMART is providing "Lindows" machines retail, HP now has a Linux VP.
> Add to that, Novell's new CLE program, Oracle's support of linux for all of
> its DB products. Linux already has 1/2 of the server market... it goes on
> and on.
>
> ... and even microsoft is using a linux server frontend to protect its
> window's based webservers, the writing is on the wall.
>
> -Chuck

IDC predicts Linux' market share based on unit sales will rise from

24% today to 33% in 2007, compared with 59% for Windows. In a survey
of business users by Forrester Research, 52% said they are now
replacing Windows servers with Linux - Yep, Linux is certainly getting
the server market!

On the desktop side, IDC sees Linux' share rising from 3% today to 6%
in 2007

6%...WOW that's really impressive! Yes, a vertible tidal wave of
change going on Chuck! That leaves Windows with a measly 93% share of
the desktop market by 2007..... Come on Chuck, it's still gonna be an
MS world on desktop apps!

Prescott

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