Monday, January 24, 2011

CAD on linux, is it still hell³?

A few years ago, I was just new to linux stuff, I searched for a CAD suite on linux. And although there were programs that had CAD functionalities or even real CAD suites it was one way journey to hell.

The three main reasons that made it hell³ were the fact that 1) It was hell to find CAD programs. 2) Finding a decent one, trust me the synaptics package manager (software center didn't exist back then) wwasn't the way to go. 3) Getting it up and running.

Actually you may turn the last two around because I never really got any further then getting it up and running! Okay, I'm not fair here, there were a few programs that were up and running.

In general I supose you could say my adventures was doomed from the first second I started it. I used Xubuntu back then which was still developing to become a user friendly distro, my expectations from it were way to high.

I was expecting something similar as ACAD! Naive, I admit. I shouldn't have hoped to find something that has more then the standard draw tools.

Anyways we moved on from the 7.04 version. More precise we're at 10.10 right now. The fact that I'm using Ubuntu instead of Xubuntu now doesn't change anything (atleast not really significantly). Moreover in general any program running on any linux distro should work on any other distro.

So far for the history, lets go ahead and start our search!

The first and most logical place to start is the Software Center. Chances that there's an Autodesk program in there are slim so I'm not even hoping for it. But I go ahead and type CAD in the searchbar. 9 matching items and 35 technical items.

Appart from a CAD program for model trains named xtrkcad there isn't any benefit in viewing the technical items. Oh hell, why should I care, I've got 9 other programs listed! Hooray?

The first one is QCad. The info sentence tells me it's a professional CAD system. Hell yeah! just what I was looking for from the first second?
Pressing the more info button shows us even more pleasable news:
"QCAD is an application for computer aided drafting (CAD) in two dimensions (2D). With QCAD you can create technical drawings such as plans for buildings, interiors, mechanical parts or schemas and diagrams."

Okay 2D, but we can live with that.. I press install and can't wait for it to be installed.

Oh hell why not look at all of the apps now were here anyway!

Next in line is FreeCAD, it states that it's a feature based parametric modeler.. Not fully certain what that sentence means I go ahead and press install allready. I think it's going to be a CAD app that allows you to change the dimensions of a feature and then redrawes it. What else can a Parametric Modeler be? More info tells me:
"FreeCAD is an Open Source CAx RAD based on OpenCasCade, Qt and Python. It features some key concepts like macro recording, workbenches, ability to run as a server and dynamically loadable application extensions and it is designed to be platform independent."
WHOOT.. macro recording? Allright, these guys are way beyond their first test versions.. I know Qt and Python allready but I'm not sure what OpenCasCade is so I open up my browser and search for it.

OpenCasCade seems to be an open-source engine that's free to use and implement in your system. I want to see the screenshots because reading things like the last info thing isn't helping me much. The screenshots look stunishing! And although all those apps are made for a specific reason (in house devopement for certain companies, so not available for me). Others are commercial applications that look an awefull lot like SolidEdge from Siemens.

I've allways hated SolidEdge but that's a personal thing. We had to work with it at GroupT (my previous school) but we didn't really had any help regarding the use of the program. I was allready able to work with autocad, solidworks, sketchup and inventor so it wasn't to hard for me to learn. And to be honest, appart from some unlogical things I'm sure my other problems could have been fixed with a proper education of the program.

An other thing to mention about SolidEdge is that is really is fast to develop prototypes with it. They claim that they can make you save more then 50% of your time and I honestly believe them. Programs like Autocad are awesome but way to slow to develop prototypes.

Anyways, back to FreeCAD. The more info menu also gives me this:
"Currently, FreeCAD can import and display CAD models in IGES, STEP, and BRep formats and meshes in STL, BMS, AST and Wavefront OBJ formats. Editing and modeling features are currently somewhat limited."
BUB? what? Looking down to the version number I see they are only in 0.10.3247. Oh god, so they aren't out of development yet.. I keep that in mind but because I know sometimes dev work can go fast when a good team is behind it I give it a shot anyways.

The next app in the list is electric, an electrical CAD System. I don't go deeper in this as it isn't what I'm looking for.

SagCAD, Draw and create is no.4 of the list and although the sentence isn't really revieling much it certainly seems to know what the objective of a CAD program is.
"Easy to use 2D Computer Aided Drafting and Modeling application with the following features:
Opening/Saving/Creating of files
Font use Qcad cxf Font
SGY/DXF/NC input
ps(PostScrip) file output
Ellipse and polyline

Wow, that isn't much.. :O but the fact that it states CAM intriges me, I'll install it anyway. (Currently in the "gain-info"-fase of converting an old A4 or A3 plotter into a Laser cutter.. Might be usefull afterall ;-)

next up: PyCAD states as info line PythonCAD.. WOW! allmost helpfull.. Hopefully more info is mure usable. "PythonCAD is a scriptable (with the Python language) and easy to use drafting program.
Please note that this version still doesn't support DWG and DXF file formats.
You guessed it: version Oh boy.. It's going to be a long journey again.. Because you never know I'll install it anyways.

I continue reading the list and end up with Gmsh Mesh Generator.. Whaat?
States: 3-D finite element mesh generator. Ow that? (not really). The fact that it says it's 3D makes me press the install button anyways (if I'm allready this far I might aswell to it good and take them all..) More info doesn't clear it out either: "Gmsh is an automatic 3D finite element mesh generator (primarily Delaunay) with build-in CAD and post-processing facilities. Its design goal is to provide a simple meshing tool for academic test cases with parametric input and up to date visualization capabilities.." (there's even more but I'll spear you that..).

Okay.. Lets hope some other program ARE what I'm looking for.

Next in line is OpenCasCade.. WHOOT! like the one from the awesome apps? Lets install.. Apperantly it's only a test harness so I don't get my hopes up for it to be a real CAD suite that's focussing on the end user.

There are only 2 others in the list. Cadabra and Mu-cade.. Both seem to be educational things but hey, you never know..

So those were the 9 from CAD.. I'm not willing to give up on this.. There has to be something.. it can't be that this is all!! So I continue my journey in my search. I'll enter other search tags and I'm taking a look on the infinite space of the internet.. Let's hope that they'll provide the information I need!

Keep checking as I'll be reviewing all of these ;-)
Have a good time drawing ;-)


Friday, January 21, 2011

Moving out?

Hi guys,

I am wondering to move out..
Not from my house that is but from blogger.

I'd like have things a little more customized. And although it's free I'd like to move away blogger.

I was thinking about a wordpress-blog hosted via or something. I'm not particularly liking but they are cheap! It would also be a very nice way to experiment with things. And to show you guys what I'm working on.

I'd love to hear your reactions and ideas about this.

Could we get this thing up and running?

let me know ;-)



Monday, January 17, 2011

Making your Ubuntu into a Record Studio

This article assumes you are using Ubuntu 10.04 or 10.10. If you haven't allready installed it you might want to check out the Installing Ubuntu in Windows as a program using Windows. In case you've allready installed Ubuntu I can only say Congratulations, you've just made a great choice by choosing Linux!

Now this might be your first FOSS product (Free and Open Source Software), realizing that most of everything you see in front of you is made by people like you and me that sacrificed there spare time in order to make this product. I assume you already looked around in ubuntu? If not you should just go ahead. The beauty about installing Ubuntu in Wubi is that you can screw it all up without any harm is done. You can always boot into Windows and throw Wubi of your system again.

Installation of Software
If you did look around in ubuntu you have seen the Ubuntu Software Center standing out of the menu without a doubt!
Ubuntu Software Center in the Applications menu

When we click it open we see that we can install a awful lot of them. We don't want to install all of them, that's for sure.
Ubuntu Software Center

But! we do want to install a lot of them. To make things a bit easier for us some guys made Ubuntu-Studio. This is an Operating system that uses Ubuntu as a base. They made a few tweaks to make it better. An operating system based on Linux is often called a Distro. Anyways, Ubuntu-Studio is a great thing for us without a doubt. But the moment being there are a few things in Ubuntu-Studio that aren't that good as the standard Ubuntu.
Since I claimed that everyone should be able to install this I opted for the normal Ubuntu. (Ubuntu-Studio can't be Wubi either.)

We'll use the advantages of Ubuntu-Studio anyways!
The first thing we need are our applications/programs/apps (whatever you want to call them). More than 25 five to be correct. This would still be a lot of work in Software Center (25 clicks! Yeah I'm lazy!). So what do we do. We open a terminal window. you either do this by going to:
Applications > Accessories > Terminal
Or by pressing:
ALT+F2 entering gnome-terminal and pressing RUN.

Once we have our terminal open we have to type:

sudo apt-get install ubuntustudio-audio

The terminal will ask for our administrator (root) password. Normally this is your own password since you are the primary user. If you aren't the primary user you should ask the system admin what his password is.
The terminal window will now install the apps we need.

Now lets take a closer look to what 'sudo apt-get install ubuntustudio-audio' does.
The first word is sudo, this will make sure the rest of the line is performed as if we were the administrator of the system. (Its a safety feature so people who aren't authorized can't install new applications)
Next we have apt-get this stands for aptitude-get. This still says nothing but in essence it calls the program that installs applications (the software center is also a program that installs other applications, you can't have two of these open at the same time)
Word number three is install, this is an easy one, it tells apt-get that we are going to be installing the packages that follow.
The last word ubuntustudio-audio is the name of the package we want to be installing. The ubuntustudio-audio package is a bit of a strange package, it doesn't house 1 application, it houses a ton of them. But basically you can change this into any package you want to install. If you'd like to install gnome-do you can enter 'sudo apt-get install gnome-do'.
NOTE: during install terminal will ask you if you want to use realtime audio, if you are running on any system newer than a pentium 4 you should definitely say yes, if you are on a pentium 4 it's up to you to decide
The realtime audio will make sure that your audio has very low latency.

Now you know what you did we're going to do this again but now for an other application. We might have all the audio applications we need, we don't have all the plugins that we need to get everything going like we want it to go. That's why we are going to install those plugins by entering:
sudo apt-get install ubuntustudio-audio-plugins
in terminal.
This package will make sure all our programs will work how we want them to work.

When you go to Applications > Sound & Video you'll see you've got a ton of apps there. Go ahead and try some. Some of them won't work now or will say that they require JACK. No worries, we'll cover that soon! ;-)

Make sure you check this place again from time to time because from now on things might just follow up a lot quicker ;-)

kind regards


PS: sorry for the bad photo quality. I'll use a better imagehost next time ;-)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

As I've written on the Project List I'm thinking about building an UAV.

Now I've been thinking about this for a while now, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. I don't have much at the moment but I'll try to give you some clues about what I'm going to try.

Some of you might now I used to fly model planes. Yes those RC ones! For people in the US and Australia that isn't really a big deal but in Belgium there aren't that many people who do this.

I started flying when I was 16. I was thinking about buying a plane for almost a whole year when I started doing a student-job at the technical department of a major supermarket here in Belgium.
I think I spended little over half of the amount that I earned there to buy myself an Easyglider Electric from Multiplex


A few years later I bought my second plane. The Multiplex Gemini.
Both planes are made from a foam. This might look cheap but it has a lot of benefits. First of it's light, which is kind off a must if you want something to fly. Second it's really strong and can take a hard landing.

I'm still studying to become an Industrial Engineer and I just can't wait to finally get trough that first year! (yes I'm doing my first year for the second time) Next year I should make a project which basically means I'd have to build something. Telling me to 'build something' isn't really a good idea. Two years ago I build a Tesla coil. It wasn't totally working but it was nice to experiment with it.

Tesla Coil

Last year while at GroupT in Leuven we had a similar project to 'build something'. After a week our teachers were backing off and we just had to describe what could be build out of it.
Together with a few other sick people of my class we took this a step or two further and we build an airhockey table. (for those who wonder, yes I am the one with the 'economy sucks' shirt) <= please note my hear is a lot shorter now!
Airhockey Table (AirT) build by the FanT project team

So you might have guessed that I'm not new to taking things over the top.

The goal
Since it will be started with a school project I'll try to do as much as possible myself. I've thought about using DIYdrones as a guide, but using an ardupilot with their code would mean it isn't totally my project. It would make it harder to convince my teachers about this project to.

So I'll be starting from scratch, either (still) using an arduino or some AVR chip. That way I'm doing 2 project of the list at the same time.

The first thing I'd need is a plane. I don't think I'll use my easyglider, I might buy an easystar to start with.


It will be either that or building a plane myself. Due to stability and stuff I'm thinking of something with a shape like this:

Belgian B-Hunter

Yes it's ugly but it does the job and has everything I need. It'll probably be between 2700m and 3700m wingspan which is a lot larger than the easystar (1370mm) or the easyglider (1800mm)

Now I'm not really considered about the flying itself. Taking of should be fairly easy to program to. But the hardest part will be the landing. I've done some calculations and this is what I get:
- Landing with GPS is a no no, it's not good for precise measurements!
- IMU's, xyz-sensors and gyro's are good but not for a landing. They can have wrong values for short amount of times. When this happens on a crucial time I''m dead (or at least the plane is).
- Using soundwaves and a transciever on the ground isn't working either. If the plane would be 200m away and sound is traveling at 300m/s that would mean that a single pulse would be traveling for about 1.2seconds. Way to much!
- Using electromagnetic waves and a transciever also isn't working. Light and other electromagnetic waves are traveling at a speed of 300 000km/s or 300 000 000m/s. So even if I'd have a unit inside the plane that can read up till 1/1000000 (1 millionth of a second) I still don't know the difference between 1 and 300m.
- using a radar is way to heavy for the planes I'm willing to use.
- Using an ILS like real planes isn't my favourite either. They use the power of the waves to calculate the position. But in windy or fogy weather this can result in problems. I can't use time to calculate the position since the plane doesn't know when the wave left the ground transciever.

So the only thing that remains is something like the B-hunter is using now: IR LASER beams.

OPATS: Object Position and Tracking System

I've emailed our army about it, I'll let you guys know when I find out more. I'm not totally sure about how this system works but as I see it the ground transciever sweeps a certain line facing lets say 30° up from the ground. The plane has a reflector on it, so every beam that hits the plane there gets redirected. The ground station then knows the distance of the plane. since (distance/height)=sin(30°) we can calculate the height of the plane. Using either the cosinus or pythagoras will give us the ground distance until the station.

The biggest benefit about this system is that the plane only needs a reflector for it. All controls would be given by the ground station so the processor in the plane doesn't need to do anything during landing (except monitoring the airspeed).

Futur Goals
In the end it will be nice to have a whole set of planes that use the same basic 'OS'. With little changes I think it must be possible to make planes for different goals. One for taking scenery movies, one for spying on people (police stuff or so, since it's all for science :D)...

Ofcourse I'll be telling you guys everything about it, giving the source code and practical tips..

Please tell me what you think about this ;-)

kind regards


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Installing Ubuntu in Windows as a program using Windows

Next step in our journey: making sure we've got linux.

Because I know many of you like to try that thing first before really installing it as an independent OS I've made a video about it.
(As you can here I'd better buy myself a new microphone, sorry for that)

Leave your questions/comments as a reply ;-)


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's been a while

hey guys,

I know you all must hate me by now.
Yes it is way to long ago since I said I was going to make the tutorials but guess what, I'm working on it!

Today I was going to record the audio for it since the movies are basically ready. But when I plugged in my mic I wasn't getting any audio! apparently my microphone input is broken & the microphone in my laptop case is a hell to listen to.

So I was searching to a way to overcome this and I found the old singstar sound module. So I put it in my laptop, connected the mic and I had sound! YES

But Murphy is an ass! When I started audacity the top menubar was gone, this is a bug since ubuntu 10.10 apparently and I hope it will be fixed soon. I overcame this problem myself now by editing a certain file.

I'm not going to record it now, but I will tomorrow. As a matter of fact my classes start at 12.50 tomorrow so I will use all my time before noon to get the first two vids up.


see you tomorrow.