OS/2 eZine - http://www.os2ezine.com
July 16, 2003
Isaac Leung (P.Eng.) got a degree in Engineering Physics followed by a Master's in Electrical Engineering after which he promptly got a job as a product engineer at a company which makes high speed datacom chips. Following the dot-com meltdown, he's back at school studying biophysics and optical properties of semiconductors. He is old enough to have cut his computer teeth on Commodore 64's and first played with OS/2 1.3 EE while at a summer job with IBM. The first PC he ever owned came with Windows 95, but he soon slapped on OS/2 Warp 3 and has been Warping ever since. In between looking for a new job, he plots to take over the world.

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JPhotoBrush Pro - Award Winning Multi-Platform Image Editor that runs in OS/2

CAD Part 2

A couple of issues ago, we looked at BlueCAD and CADVANCE. These two products were still available to OS/2 users needing to do a bit of mechanic CAD work. Surprisingly, in this short period of time, there have been new developments in this area.


In a bit of behind-the-scenes prodding by one of the members of the OS/2 community, Cadware, the makers of BlueCAD, have agreed to make BlueCAD available for free!

They are in the process of re-vamping their website, and when it is done, the free download of BlueCAD for OS/2 should be available. Keep your eyes open!

Architectural Layout

In the last article, I got a lot of feedback asking about BlueCAD's ability to handle architectural layout jobs. The answer is "Of course!", it even comes with a couple of sample files for you to look at. PLAN.DIS shows the layout of a small office, while DEMO4.DIS is quite a bit more impressive. It's a complete plan for what looks like small (maybe 30,000 square meter) amusement park or garden, complete with trees, curved pathways, ponds and everything.

This sort of work is facilitated by BlueCAD's capability to have standard "blocks", which can be accessed under the "Manage->Blocks" menu item.
BlueCAD Blocks Window

Yes, unfortunately, I seem to have a display driver problem, because many of the blocks appear to be all black, (it may be my resolution is too high! I run 1280x1024 at about 120DPI screen) so I have no idea what each one is until I access it. But it does work. All you have to do is drag 'n drop the desired block onto your work area. Don't worry, the item isn't placed there yet! It stays "floating" with your mouse until you click the button to place a copy down.

There are pre-built blocks for trees, chairs, sinks, TV stands, beds and all sorts of other furniture items. For all of you doing other work, there are also various blocks for computers, mainframes, servers, etc and also mechanical bits such as springs, screws and so on. Of course, if you need something more specialized, you can always create your own blocks.

3D from BlueCAD

Those of you who purchased BlueCAD will find Cadware's Pj2 CAD software, which is supposed to be a fully 3-D offering. The version included is a demo only. Now, a warning if you choose to try the demo. Make a copy of your CONFIG.SYS first! I'm not sure what the setup does to the system, but for my Warp 4 level systems, it seems to lose a few important lines and renders my computers non-bootable. Luckily, I could still boot to the command-line and fix things up. The only change that is required in the CONFIG.SYS is to add the DLL path for Pj2 to your LIBPATH. So, before you reboot after installation, be sure to copy over your backup CONFIG.SYS and just add this one entry.

BlueCAD may be based on Pj2, but if it is, it's not obvious. BlueCAD is far friendlier and easier to use, and I doubt you'll get far with Pj2 without reading the manual.

The screen is quite a simpler than BlueCAD. This is because it relies on popup menus, and utilizes even the 3rd (middle) mouse button as well. Even the icon menu bar you see in the screenshot above is the result of clicking the right mouse button. Usually, only the top text menu bar is visible. I didn't spend much time playing with it too much because there were no real sample files included, and as far as I know, it requires a hardware "dongle" to operate out of demo mode. I'm not sure if it is still available from Cadware. I did speak with them, and the said that they have no plans to make Pj2 free.


Shortly after publishing my quick look at Cadvance 6.5 (free for the download), I was contacted by someone at Cadvance regarding the article.

First of all, there is a "fix" for the font problem I noticed in the status bar. It is actually not a bug with Cadvance itself. Rather, you simply have to setup WinOS2 to use small fonts. If you are using a Matrox card, I think the later drivers have the fix in for you to do this. If you (like me) are using SciTech display drivers, I hear the fix will be in soon.

The second issue is in regards to the manuals, or lack thereof. Originally these were hardcopy only, so are not available for the free download. Happily, I was informed that Cadvance 7.2 iss still available and worked under WinOS2. Cadvance 7.2 is not free, it is $50US plus shipping and handling, but it does come with the hardcopy manuals. I noted that in some areas of the web site, it said the $50 offer was only for educational (i.e. school) users, but it is not mentioned in other areas, and the fellow from Cadvance who contacted me about this made no mention of it (he had no reason to know I did qualify for academic purchase). I was not asked for proof when I submitted my order anyways.

You can order it from Cadvance directly. Just go to the bottom of the page there and check on the "CADVANCE v7.2 Special Offer".

So what did I get for my $50?

  • 2 volume hardcopy manual (all I was pretty much expecting)
  • Quick reference guide.
  • Bonus disk guide. For some of the bonus/sample files included on the CD's
  • 2 CD's, 1 copy of Cadvance v7.2, and a 2nd copy for use at home (or some other secondary location). Very nice of them!
  • 2 keyboard "quick reference" cards, nicely laminated. (I guess they are meant to be keyboard overlays almost).
  • A whole stack of literature and information regarding the latest versions of Cadvance. (Interesting, but not much use to OS/2 users).
Visually, the software itself looks pretty much the same as v6.5. Most of the changes are under the hood, including updated AutoCAD 13 converters. For most people, I suspect that if you're happy with v6.5 right now, there isn't too much reason to move up to v7.2, but if you're like me and really need the manuals to get started, then it may be worth the $50 to get the two volume manuals.

The Manuals

The manuals themselves, in my opinion, are worth the $50. Volume 1 weighs in at around 500 pages or so, and Volume 2 is a bit smaller, maybe 300-400 pages or thereabouts. The first volume covers pretty much all the basic operations of Cadvance, and Volume 2 addresses the extra 3-D features.

All of it is very well written up in comparison to many manuals I've seen. Instructions are all very clearly written with excellent detail, aided by relevant screenshots that are appropriately labelled. Most of it is setup as lessons, with clear objectives and conluding in what you should have covered in each lesson. Very nice! I have to give credit to the technical writers who wrote this up. (They almost certainly did not attend UNIX man page school).

A second look at capabilities

Those of you looking to do a bit of architectural or interior layout should be quite happy. Judging by the amount of space and samples devoted to it in the manuals, a large part of the intended focus for Cadvance seems to be towards this goal. It sports quite a bit more complex capabilities than BlueCAD in this regard. In particular, each object can be linked to a database or spreadsheet to keep track of various attributes of each item. I can see, for example, where this comes in very handy if you need to track the serial number of each specific computer in the company. Now, I have to admit, I don't have this need and don't have that much expertise in this area, so I'll just leave it at that. If this sounds useful to you, you may want to try the free v6.5 download and see if it meets your needs.

On the downside, the tradeoff to the above features is less of a focus towards 3-D design. While definitely showing off more capability than BlueCAD in this area, it still isn't quite what I was looking for. It appears most of the work in 3-D is done in an isometric type view or by extruding 2-D drawings. Perhaps I'm old school, but I feel more comfortable designing with the standard 3 view approach (front, right and top) with a 4th isometric 3-D view just for visualization. In fact, this is the approach used by most 3-D animation application as well. For all but the "hardcore" engineers and draftspeople though, I suspect that Cadvance's approach may be easier.

The summary though, is still the same. That is, don't have to take my word for it! Give Cadvance a try yourself, as the v6.5 download is still free and has pretty much all the same functions as v7.2. You can consider the $50 cost of v7.2 as simply paying for the hardcopy printout of the manuals, if you wish.

Bentley Microstation 95

I was aware of this product, but had some trouble getting a copy, which was why I did not review it. It was a very expensive and capable product (and still is, I gather), so if you have the opportunity to get a copy, do it! One of our readers offered to "donate" a copy for review, but I've yet to see it show up in my mailbox yet. If I ever receive it, I'll be sure to let you know what I think of it.

The latest version of Bentley Microstation is v8, and it is not available for OS/2. There were also some questions regarding Microstation/J (the J is for Java), however, this doesn't mean that Microstation/J was written in Java! It merely supports using Java as the language for its "plugins".


This one I did not know about, at least not for OS/2. A helpful reader pointed out that v4.0 (or maybe an earlier one) was actually available for OS/2. If anyone of you know how to get my hands on a copy, please let me know.

Those of you not familiar with CATIA, I believe it originated from Dassault in France (yes, I think it's the same guys that make those fighter jets), and later somehow IBM got in the game and this is where many people get CATIA from now, I think. It's one serious, heavy-duty piece of CAD software! I think it is also used heavily by Boeing and was used in designing the International Space Station.

If any of you find one kicking around the junk pile somewhere, don't lose it!

Other kinds of CAD

Later, we'll take some time to look at other tools for Computer Aided Design (CAD), not in the mechanical area but electrical and maybe even chemical. If you have something else interesting you are using, feel free to share it with us!

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