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The Answer Guy

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

(?)AutoCAD for Linux? Not Yet. Sorry.

From david stankus on 24 Sep 1998

Hi, I was talking with Terry and he told me you may know of a way to use an AutoCAD14 compatible on the Linux OS platform? I'm an AutoCAD driver for pay and am about to build a machine and I'll need an OS for said machine. Do you think Linux is a good way to go? Thanks Dave

(!)Last I heard there was no support for Linux from Autodesk. Although they originally developed on Unix, Autodesk has shifted almost completely to Windows in recent years --- and they've been cutting their margins and trying to make it on volume. The prices for their Unix versions were always much higher than the Windows versions --- so their perception of the market interest levels is probably a matter of "self-fulfilling" prophecy. (Naturally the market will appear to have greater demand for the version that costs one quarter the price).
So you probably won't get AutoCAD running directly. I also wouldn't try to run it under one of the Windows emulators that's available for Linux --- those are generally too slow and unstable for productive use on major applications. They are most suited to the occasional case where you need to get into Word or Excel to extract some data from a proprietary document.
Of course I could be wrong --- you should definitely call Autodesk and ask them. We've recently had Informix, Oracle, Sybase, Corel, IBM and other major companies announce product plans (and actually release products) for Linux. So, Autodesk might be jumping on this bandwagon to blow their own horn any time. Calls by real users, who are really interested in making an immediate purchase are bound to help. I've copied their webmaster on this message so that he or she (or they) can forward this along to the the appropriate parties. (I did search their web site at http://www.autodesk.com for Unix and Linux --- and there didn't seem to be any support for any PC based Unix -- though there was mention of AIX, HP-UX, and Sun [sic] --- that would presumably be Solaris/SPARC).
If that doesn't work you could try some of the native Linux CAD packages. There are a couple of these out there --- one is called "Microstation" from Bentley systems. It is available only in a "student version" and they won't sell a "fully support" edition for commercial/professional use at this time. There also one called VariCAD and another called Varkon. Actually there's a whole list of related products at:
... LinuxApps.com is an extensive site that lists a good cross section of the available Linux software (mostly commercial software in this case).
Two other favorite sites for Linux applications are:
Christopher B. Browne's home pages:
Christopher is very active on the comp.os.linux.* newsgroups --- where he is often a voice of cool reason amidst the flames. His Linux pages covers DBMS (databases) more extensively than any others I've found.
... and:
Linas Vepstas
Linas Vepstas should not be confused with Linus Torvalds. However, Linas does maintain a nice trim set of web pages devoted to "Linux Enterprise Computing." I particularly like Linas' commentary and annotations, including the occasional wisecrack. This is not "just another bookmarks" page.
These might not work like AutoCAD at all and I don't think they support the same document formats nor the "AutoLISP" programming/macro'ing language. However they might suit you.
Ultimately if your most important requirement is AutoCAD --- then you're probably stuck with Windows until Autodesk figures it out. Until then you could toss Linux up on a cheap little PC in the closet --- run an ethernet cable to it and access all your Linux applications remotely (via telnet and/or VNC or X Windows). If you use 'screen' and VNC it's possible to leave jobs running on the Linux box "detached" from your Windows box, so that the frequent reboots required by Windows won't disturb your other work. (My boxes at the house usually stay up for months at a time. I only occasionally reboot any of them --- usually to add hardware or install a new kernel.
Your "closet" server can be as modest as a 386 with as little as 16Mb of RAM and a 100Mb hard drive. (Actually it's possible to boot from a single diskette and do limited work in 8Mb of RAM or less --- but 16Mb and a hard drive is still a good idea).

Copyright © 1998, James T. Dennis
Published in Linux Gazette Issue 33 October 1998

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