May 14, 2012

Customizing Ubuntu 12.04 LTS for CAD

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is probably the best solution for a Linux-based CAD workstation. Supported for 5 years and easy to use, allows you to create a zero-cost reliable CAD workstation powered by Linux. In this article I am going to show some tricks that will make your life easier with your new OS.

Necessary Applications/System tools

  • Install Synaptic and gdebi.
Synaptic is an advanced package manager that allows you to manage your system's packages in a more powerful way. Gdebi is a small application that installs stand-alone deb files on your system. It is necessary in order to install DraftSight but I prefer this application for all the stand-alone debs for  two reasons: It's faster than Ubuntu Software Center is and gives you more information about possible installation errors.
  • Install dpkg-repack
This is a small command-line utility that allows you to generate deb installers from an installed program.Very useful for backup if you had accidentally deleted the original deb installer of your program from your filesystem.
  • Install apt-cacher
A killer application for LANs. Saves Internet bandwitch on LANs. Install it on every computer of your LAN. After that, in case you need to install an update or a package, the system will check if this is already downloaded by another computer in the LAN, and if it is, it will be installed directly from the other computer instead of downloading it from the Internet.
  • Install Gimp,Inkscape and Blender
Great Open Source programs for raster (Gimp), vector (Inkscape)  and 3D (Blender) graphics.
  • Install cups-pdf
This package adds a virtual pdf printer to your system. Very useful with Bricscad.
  • Update your graphics drivers easily
Install the -updates package of your proprietary graphics driver and this driver will be updated normally. For example, fglrx-updates instead of fglrx for AMD GPUs and nvidia-current-updates instead of nvidia-current for newer Nvidia GPUs.
  • Install pstoedit to convert vector files
A small command line utility that allows you to convert files in a variety of vector graphics formats. Very useful if you want to convert vector PDF files to dxf.
  • Take a look on Open Source CAD/CAE.
Open Source has some great CAD/CAE tools. You may be interested on some of these tools. LibreCAD and FreeCAD are available from your system's repositories but both have PPA's for anyone who wants to keep a close look on their development. Gmsh and Elmer are useful CAE tools.
  • Install multimedia codecs.
Add support for the most common used multimedia formats by installing the ubuntu-restricted-extras package. You probably don't need any other packages  but extra multimedia content is available from system's repositories or external sources like Medibuntu.
  • Ksplice for rebootless kernel updates
Ksplice promises to apply kernel security updates without any system reboot. It is available from your system's repositories but a newer version is available for Ubuntu 12.04 from Oracle as a .deb package.
  • Customize your desktop.
If you don't like Ubuntu's new interface you have a lot of other options available on your system's repositories. 
  - gnome-session-fallback: An interface similar to the old GNOME 2.x experience
  - gnome-shell: The new GNOME 3.x default shell
and a lot of other DE and WM including KDE,XFCE,LXDE,e17,Openbox.

Tweaking Ubuntu 12.04

  • Sync applications within different computers.
Ubuntu Software Center and Synaptic give you options to sync your installed applications within different computers. Software Center uses Ubuntu One for this so you have to configure it correctly with the same account in every machine.  Synaptic allows you to generate a package download script. So when you configure your first machine just mark for installation every package you want and from the file menu select the option "Generate a packages download script". Then use this script in every machine to install all the packages that you had selected before without re-selecting them.
  • Get back icons in menus for DraftSight and Bricscad.
The decision of GNOME to hide the icons may be good for other applications but not for CAD. You can get back icons in menus for your favorite CAD program by executing the following commands in a terminal.

For Bricscad:
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface menus-have-icons true
For DraftSight:
gconftool-2 -t boolean -s /desktop/gnome/interface/menus_have_icons true
There are also graphical tools (gnome-tweak-tool and gconf-editor) that can do this but the terminal is faster and you don't need to install any extra software.
  • Use Ubuntu One.
Ubuntu One is the free 5GB cloud storage application that comes by default with Ubuntu. It also has some extra options like syncing browser's bookmarks and installed applications within different computers.
  • Get more from your file manager.
With F3 you switch to two pane mode and you can add the permanent delete in the right click options from the preferences menu. Also the middle mouse click opens the selected folder in a new tab.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. maybe here you can find more open source software for you list: