Why I don't like LinuxCAD.
by Erik de Castro Lopo
Last Updated : March 26th, 2000
This document explains my reasons for disliking SoftwareForge Inc. the makers of LinuxCAD which supposedly is an AutoCAD replacement for the Linux operating system. Many people would probably think that ANY additional software choices for Linux are a good thing. This is not the case as I hope to prove.
I first became aware of LinuxCAD earlier this year (1998). It was probably in March or April that SoftwareForge first started posting advertisements on all the Linux newsgroups they could find. Very early on they were actually posting a new message to every group every day, with the very same advertisement. This is SPAM by anybody's definition.
Usenet spam is dangerous. Usenet is not controlled by any person/s or company; it is a community that decides on and abides by rules of appropriate behaviour ( Netiquette ) in order to maintain the health of the community. If some people blatantly disregard the agreed-to laws, anarchy ensues. Advertising is frowned upon in Usenet (see the Usenet Advertising How-To). If the sanctions against advertising stopped being enforced, advertising would flood the newsgroups and they would become unusable.
Due to the low cost of advertising on Usenet, anybody can do it. Most ISPs have strict Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) for their users which prohibit spamming. ISPs who enforce their AUPs terminate the accounts of any users engaging in spamming (IF they receive complaints). Unfortunately SoftwareForge's current ISP is not willing to enforce their AUP.
There is also a large group of Usenet administrators (they control their own personal News servers) which run Cancel bots (see the CancelMoose) which identify and issue cancel messages for some spam. Some of SoftwareForge's Usenet posts have been cancelled causing them to modify their posting methods to avoid the cancel-bots.
Click here if you want to find out more about Usenet and how it works.
I took action against LinuxCAD and SoftwareForge.
Every time I saw one of their advertisements I sent a complaint email to SoftwareForge's ISP and the ISP where their web page was located ( here's a much later example). Around this time I discovered that SoftwareForge had engaged in email spam as well, as testified to by a number of people in the newsgroups. It was probably due to this email spam that SoftwareForge was terminated by its original ISP (idsonline.com).
Now, whenever SoftwareForge spams the newsgroups, they still use the their old IDSONLINE email address address (email@example.com) and also forge the message id to make it look like it came from IDSONLINE. This is pretty typical behaviour from spammers. They don't want to let anyone know where the spam is coming from, and they want to avoid receiving the complaints from people on Usenet who want them to stop spamming.
Anyway, the LinuxCAD spams continued as did my complaints to their ISPs. Then one day I found a review of LinuxCAD. From then on, whenever I found a spam for LinuxCAD on Usenet, I posted a pointer to the review as well as sending a complaint to their ISP.
In reply to yet another LinuxCAD spam, Robert Wuest posted a review of LinuxCAD to the Linux newsgroups. He also put it up on a web page which I am mirroring here (as allowed by Robert's copyright notice). As well, the review was published in the Linux Gazette which is strongly associated with everybody's favourite magazine Linux Journal.
Basically this review is less than favourable. The base package cost US$75 but as far as Robert was concerned the package was not really useful until a further US$700 was spent on `add-ons'. (They have since reduced the price somewhat but are continuing with the pricing policy of a small entry price followed by expensive add-ons to make it functional. In their favour, they have thrown in the print options for free and added documentation in HTML format.)
In response to the newsgroup review, someone else posted the view that Robert's review was far too kind.
SoftwareForges's response was an attempt to discredit Robert Wuest. Funnily enough, in this rebuttal of the review, they quoted testimonials from two supposed customers; "Dave Rector (UCSD)" and "someone else". Strangely, these testimonials used the same poor english expression as whoever wrote the LinuxCAD advertisement.
Next, they tried to discredit me as well and this is why I have taken the time to research and post this article.
So where has all this got the various participants?
SoftwareForge have probably seen a much lower level of sales for LinuxCAD than they would have liked. Initially people would have avoided their software because of their spamming activity. Had they not spammed they may not have come to the attention of people like myself and hence would not have attracted all this negative publicity. In fact Robert Wuest's review might not have become as widely known of and read.
Robert Wuest paid good money for software which was not up to scratch, but has not, apart from this, suffered any loss during this incident in spite of SoftwareForge's smear campaign. He is probably still using Autocad on Windows NT instead of Linux as he'd prefer.
Erik de Castro Lopo (your correspondent) has spent time complaining about the spam and writing this article. Obviously, I would much rather have been doing something else. So why did I do it? Well, I believe Usenet is a valuable resource for the whole internet community. If SoftwareForge was allowed to spam the newsgroups without any negative effects then other people would also try to advertise products on Usenet. As the number of advertisements increased, people would stop reading Usenet, and in time it would die. I cannot stand idly by and let this happen. ( Read more). Besides, I did not want people to think that the quality of LinuxCAD and the behaviour of SoftwareForge are representative of the general Linux community.
Usenet has been defended :-). SoftwareForge is still spamming because their ISP refuses to enforce their AUP. However, one hopes that other potential advertisers have noticed all the bad publicity SoftwareForge and LinuxCAD have attracted and will be discouraged from following in SoftwareForge's footsteps.
If SoftwareForge wants to redeem itself it must do the following:
If SoftwareForge can agree to these two conditions, I will post their apology (and their promise to cease spamming) on this page as well as adding a link to the new review.
During my campaign to get SoftwareForge to stop their spamming I have been informed of some other products that may fit the bill for some users. All three products have a version for Linux and vary from shareware (not sure of the exact terms) to a couple of thousand dollars outlay. They are :
If anybody knows of other Linux products which might fit the bill, please contact me so that I can include them here.
I would also love to hear from anyone who has used these software packages and is willing to have their comments included on this page.
Erik de Castro Lopo
March 26th ,2000
It is hereby released into the public domain.
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