Protel to Kicad – Update

Saturday 18th Feb 2017
To give an update I am just about to code the Kicad PCB output functionality after confirming the ‘Parsing’ of the AutoTRAX PCB file format is working. The code has taken me a while, mainly because I’m wrestling with learning PHP et al and getting comfortable with coding after an absence of nearly 12 years from my previous life as a software engineer.
One of the largest PCB boards that I have to test the code produces the following statistics:

PCB:
No of File Lines = 66041
No of Missed Line Items = 0
COMPONENTS:
No of Components = 690
No of Comp Tracks = 3925
No of Comp Pads = 3836
No of Comp Strings = 0
No of Comp Fills = 8
No of Comp Arcs = 146
No of Comp Vias = 0
PRIMITIVES:
No of Free Tracks = 16597
No of Free Pads = 18
No of Free Via = 979
No of Free Fills = 2739
No of Free Arcs = 11
No of Free Strings = 49

It is a good board to test the code, but I would like other PCB’s to test, so if you have any that I can use, then contact me to arrange transfer etc. They will NOT be published anywhere, just used for validation, I will even send you the converted PCB if you wish once the export functionality is working at least to ‘Alpha’ quality.

Protel AutoTRAX PCB to KiCAD convertor

I’m working on a utility that will allow users to convert Protel AutoTRAX PCB files to KiCAD PCB files. For more info, please select Technology/EDA/Protel to KiCAD Convertor from the top menu, or click here.

It’s just a holding page at the moment but I would love if anyone interested in this utility, to post comments and or suggestions. E.g. Is there anyone out there who wants to convert their files, what features would they think or would like this convertor to have etc???

Update on Linux on Dell XPS-12-9Q33

More Linux/Windows OS Trialing

I’ve been busy trying a couple more OS’s since I last posted.

I’ve tried:

  • Kubuntu 15.04 Alpha 2 – This is running the new Plasma 5 Desktop Environment that features a hardware accelerated graphics stack. I was quite impressed with the performance considering that this was still in Alpha. In my use over a couple of days I did notice that it had a terrible appetite to use up all of my RAM i.e. it had a serious memory leak(s), nevertheless I will be watching this Distro closely.
  • The latest MS Windows 10 Technical Preview 10.9926. This didn’t stay to long on my PC, as after loading the Dell mouse/touch-pad drivers, the system wouldn’t boot, giving an boot error message like “SYSTEM_SERVICE_EXCEPTION” and referencing w32kfull.sys. I had to  use the flash disk I booted the system from to rescue the system. Finally it booted, but things like the Start menu would not work, deleted files of a flash disk would suddenly re-appear and installations would fail for no apparent reason. I tried Googling for help, but to no avail. I suspect that somewhere I picked up an virus/malware of some sorts. If anyone can shed light on this, it would be great.
    I must confess though, Windows 10 is shaping up to be a great OS.

My life is far to short for this so I installed:

OpenSUSE KDE 13.10

In the previous post(s) I’ve mentioned that I’d installed openSUSE 13.2 both in the KDE and Gnome flavours. I’ll be trialing the KDE version to see if I can use it as the default OS on this Dell XPS-12 ultra-book.

I prefer KDE over Gnome, so that’s why I’ve gone the KDE route, as well as the temptation of the Plasma 5 DM, down the track in an future edition adds to the excitement. Traditionally openSUSE defaults to the KDE DM, and openSUSE is also known for its stability by using tried and true over bleeding edge.

Down-side is that I’ll have to install Oracle’s Virtualbox so I can run a Windows VM for the Cypress PSoC Creator software.

My son warned me that Linux doesn’t have a very large game base compared to Windows. Since I don’t play games other than Solitare etc, no great loss to me; also means that he will keep his mitts off it!

One thing I did was change the default font to Droid Sans and set the ant-aliasing as shown in these images. Made a huge difference to readability especially considering the fonts appear quite small due to the high DPI of the monitor.

Font selection dialog.
Font selection dialog.
Ant-Alias Settings
Anti-Aliasing settings dialog

One thing I’ll have to master is OpenSUSE’s package tool, as I’m used to Debians ‘Aptitude’ i.e. apt-get install ‘some great app’ command line syntax… and yes I know there is software managers, but I like the command line!

Finally my TunerStudio and MegaLogViewer (Java) applications I use  to tune my ECU all are working, along with the KDE PIM Kontact app handling my schedules and e-mails etc.

Cheers, to the next installment!

Linux on Dell XPS-12-9Q33 Update

Update

Well it’s been a while but here is my current position and mini review, (of sorts), on changing my MS OS to a Linux variant. Some of the OS’s I’ve tried (in no particular order) are:

  1. Ubuntu 14.10
  2. Kubuntu 14.10
  3. Mint Mate 17.1
  4. Mint Cinnamon 17.1
  5. OpenSuse 13.2 – Gnome
  6. OpenSuse 13.2 – KDE
  7. MS Windows 10 Technical Preview (I know it’s not Linux!)

Desktop Managers

I must say, without causing a flame war,  that I prefer the KDE Desktop Managers (DM) over the Gnome based DM’s, except for Ubuntu’s Unity DM. This is mainly because I like the increased facilities that KDE provides, that allow the end user to fiddle with how the desktop looks and behaves. I also liked the eye candy effects that Compiz compositing manager provides.

My touchscreen and touchpad worked in all OS’s, but only in MS Windows 10 did the screen rotate work out of the box. Not a show stopper, but I do occasionally use the tablet mode in portrait for reading PDF’s. I would have to write a script on the Linux OS’s that rotated the screen and touchpad orientations.

Ubuntu’s Unity DM allows for better touchscreen use, as it has larger icons and its design that tries to cover both Desktop and Notebook (read touchscreen) users compared to the other Linux OS’s.

Package Management

I must confess I’ve used the Debian Package Management system more than the YAST system used by OpenSuse. Nether less I still prefer the Debian software/package system. I’m not sure why but I guess it’s mainly a familiarity thing, nothing to do with the technical aspects at all.

Applications

One of the applications I’m currently ‘playing’ with under MS Windows, is Cypress PSoC Creator IDE. Unfortunately unlike the XMOS xTimeComposer IDE they do not provide a Linux version. So undeterred I tried to install it using the WINE emulator. Limited success; I managed to get the setup to install, but it did not complete. I did install it under the VMWare player using MS Windows 7 which has a neat feature called Unity that allows the host system to show the guest applications as if they were app running on the host… cool. Downside(s) are:

  • I yet again have to maintain a Windows system in a virtual machine, but maybe don’t have to worry to much about security updates and virus/malware.
  • Backups become larger and consequentially take longer as I have to backup the virtual machine (vmdx) disk files  that change every time I run the virtual machine. I use a NAS box on an Ethernet network.

One thing about Linux applications that irks me, is the user interface ‘look and feel’ and consistency varies a lot. It is getting better as the versions march out, but Windows apps in the whole beat it hands down. I know this shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I guess being a Virgo has it’s down sides… I like things to be symmetrical and to be in line and well, to be similar. LOL

Printing/Scanning

How many times in the past have I installed a Linux OS and then found out that the printer is either not supported or limited in its functionality…. lots of times. Well this time I had no problems, mainly because when I purchased my Brother MFC-9330CDW Printer I made sure it had Linux drivers. Works a treat both as a printer and scanner under Linux!

Speed

For those looking for a benchmark, look elsewhere, all of the following is very subjective. I did note that the Gnome compared to the KDE desktops seemed to be a little faster in loading applications. Since the XPS 12 runs an Intel i7 along with a very fast SSD drive the difference was only marginal.

3D graphics performance I couldn’t rate at all as I don’t play games, but 2D performance was nice and smooth if not smoother than under MS Windows. For the OS’s that I tried the Compiz window effects on, the Intel HD4400 coped very well, no stuttering or artefacts worth mentioning.

MS Windows 10 Technical Preview

Just a quick note on this. I installed this for a couple of days and even though I didn’t flog it to death, I found it to be quite stable. I liked:

  • The re-instatement   of the start menu along with the incorporation of the Metro interface into it. (Metro interface is still there if required.)
  • The ability to have multiple desktops…. just like Linux has!

Conclusion

Well at the moment, I have no final conclusion. I’ve gone back to MS Windows 8.1 and will most likely upgrade to 10 as it will be a free upgrade. My current Dell XPS 12 drivers seem to work well under 10, so there should be no issues. Reasoning behind this is that I only want one OS to maintain and as such I can’t run the Cypress PSoC Creator software under Linux natively. Sure I can use VMWare, or even dual boot (lets not go there) but I want a clean transparent solution. Now if I decide not to use PSoC in the future, maybe the tables will turn. I’m still a fan boy of Linux and I’m looking forward to the future changes (and they are changing fast) in the Linux desktop landscape and hope that I can use it in future, but sadly not at the moment.

Just in case if your wondering what my favourite Linux OS is… it is Ubuntu 14.10 running Unity, closely followed by Mint Cinnamon 17.1.