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BRL-CAD... then, now, and in the future

2010-10-05
2013-04-22
  • Kris Lyttle
    Kris Lyttle
    2010-10-05

    Hello all,

    I'm new here at the BRL-CAD forum, and I'd like to say that BRL-CAD has a lot of potential. I know that's not saying much… you guys probably know that already. lol!

    Anyway I've been looking into its history (a rather long one at that), as well as its current state, to try get a sense of its capabilities. Now, I see that the developers are currently in the process of transforming and/or overhauling BRL-CAD into something that is supposedly more modern, but what exactly is BRL-CAD becoming? By this I mean will BRL-CAD be able to do what it was initially created to do (ballistics research, etc.) with other more "civilian" capabilities added in?

    Whatever the case, I look forward to seeing what the final outcome looks like, and how it compares to the other open-source 3D offerings, such as the OpenCASCADE-based CAD software (like FreeCAD), CADtools for Blender, Wildcat-CAD (which is dormant for the time being), and, of course, the proprietary stuff; I should be able formulate more accurate impressions by then.

    Cheers.

    Kris

     
  • Sean Morrison
    Sean Morrison
    2010-10-05

    BRL-CAD will still continue to do what it was initially created to do.  It's one of the guardianship responsibilities of every developer to ensure that BRL-CAD's ray-tracing library is robust and accurate, for example, as that is central to the analysis capabilities of the package.

    The most drastic change coming to BRL-CAD is usability.  BRL-CAD has hundreds - nay, thousands - of features that are on par or better than man of the commercial CAD systems.  Those features, though, are not readily apparently, not documented, or hidden behind an interface with a very steep learning curve.

    To make BRL-CAD easier to use requires several (major) changes.  First, it requires conversion from a pure CSG modeling system into a hybrid representation modeling system so that we can display and manipulate geometry via expected methods.  Second, it requires bolstering up our import/export services so that people can try their geometry in BRL-CAD without fear of data loss or lock-in.  Finally, it requires a restructuring of the source code into more modular and manageable forms so that we can preserve our existing features while managing complexity for future development.

    All of that is already under way but not going to happen quickly so we also have to grow our open source community.  BRL-CAD has more time and effort invested than all other open source efforts *combined* (including the ones you've mentioned) but is masked behind a veil of inscrutable usability.

    Cheers!
    Sean

    p.s. more details are at http://brlcad.org/BRL-CAD_Priorities.png

     
  • Kris Lyttle
    Kris Lyttle
    2010-10-09

    Thanks a lot for your insights, Sean.

    I came across your list on another post:

    http://brlcad.org/~sean/ideas.html

    1. Is this list comprehensive, i.e., do you anticipate more items to be added? (I wouldn't know what more could be added, but I thought I'd ask nonetheless; it goes to the future track of BRL-CAD.)

    2. I saw some items crossed off (I'm assuming those are now implemented) Have any of the others been completed to date (or close to being completed)?

    My apologies if my queries are somewhat long-winded; Perhaps some figures indicating the state of progress for each of these items might be helpful in giving the community some idea on BRL-CAD's overall progress (not sure if this is asking a lot; there are quite a lot of stuff there. if it is, then never mind. lol!)

    Cheers!

    Kris

     
  • Sean Morrison
    Sean Morrison
    2010-10-09

    Absolutely not!  It's by no means a comprehensive list.

    Items are added and removed from time to time.  The crossed off items are ones that have been completed.  It would be a bit too heavy process overhead to track, report, and update progress on each individual item.  The list is more supposed to be a springboard for ideas and inspiration.  Plenty of others are conceived and implemented before they even make the list.

    That said, it might be useful to turn the list into a wiki page so others can contribute, track, and organize additional suggestions.  What I'd really like, though, is an IdeaTorrent installation.

    Cheers!
    Sean

     
  • Kris Lyttle
    Kris Lyttle
    2010-10-09

    I'm glad I asked my questions, because I've never even heard of IdeaTorrent, until you mentioned it.

    From what I can gather, IdeaTorrent seems to be a better way to go that with a wiki; you have my full support on that.

    Thanks.

    Kris

     
  • Sean Morrison
    Sean Morrison
    2010-10-12

    Great!  Let me know what all you need to set up IdeaTorrent on the website.  Can't wait to see it in action.  Full support is fantastic. ;)

     
  • Kris Lyttle
    Kris Lyttle
    2010-10-12

    LOL!! You make it sound as if I'm the one who has YOUR full support, rather than the other way around. F U N N E E! :D.

    Sean, believe me when I tell you, I wouldn't know the first thing on how to go about doing something like that. I'm just a junior electrical engineer who just loves the idea of an easy-to-use, open-source, cross-platform, full-featured and versatile 3D CAD program; when it comes to programming or web development, I'm a complete dunce!

    But that's not to say I'm not interested in helping BRL-CAD along in anyway that I can. So, you tell me, how do I go about doing this?

    Cheers!

    Kris

     
  • Sean Morrison
    Sean Morrison
    2010-10-13

    Well, in a sense you certainly do have my full support if you're willing to contribute time and effort.  I was only half-joking.  That is, if you're offering full support, I'll gladly accept that offer by helping you help BRL-CAD.

    Contributing to any open source project can occur with practically any skill set and background.

    It's all about sustaining some level of time and effort.  Ideas are generally in absurd abundance, so they come cheap and easy.  That said, the hard work is not just writing code.  There is web design, graphics, marketing, usability, outreach, documentation, testing, specifications, interface design, configuration control, prototyping, …

    You could contribute to pretty much any of those.  How to get started?  Set a specific goal.

     
  • Kris Lyttle
    Kris Lyttle
    2010-10-13

    DANG! Certainly a lot of ways to get involved, huh?… graphics and interface design sounds like the same thing to me; likewise usability and testing…don't even know what configuration control is. :D

    You know, for about the past year and a half or so, all I had was time, which I could've used to put some effort into something like BRL-CAD, had I known about it. Now, I may not even have much of that going forward… too many uncertainties with work, and I'm in the process of getting my engineering license here in Ontario, Canada, which for me, requires more work experience….all that junk! :)

    BTW, do you know of any electrical power engineers that are using BRL-CAD for their projects? That might give me some clues as to what avenue(s) to pursue with development. I know you've stated that BRL-CAD has a lot of features that have been built into it (I'm guessing bit-by-bit over the years.) Are there any that can be used to do calculations, e.g., Vdrop over a length of cable with a given Vsource? Perhaps this can be among a few things that can be included if it hasn't been already.

    Thanks, Sean

    Kris

     
  • Sean Morrison
    Sean Morrison
    2010-10-13

    The difference between graphics and interface design is the difference between someone proficient with Photoshop and someone proficient with Visio.  They are related, but pull from completely different skills and generally for completely different purposes.

    Usability and testing are more closely related in that you can test usability, but working on usability and working on testing produce completely different products.  With usability, you might end up with actual efficiency metrics and design guidelines.  With testing, you generally focus on verifying behavior, identify weaknesses, and measuring conformance.

     
  • Sean Morrison
    Sean Morrison
    2010-10-13

    Again, if you want to contribute something useful - focus on what you know, something you're good at.  If your strength is in some engineering trade (e.g., electrical), then you could simply write a detailed use-case design document - a "user story" - on some common task.  There are plenty of example user stories I could point you at if that's something you're interested in working on.

    Similarly, you could do something as simple as pull together a succinct yet detailed example of an *output* you'd hope to see from BRL-CAD.  This could be something sketched out on paper or some detailed analysis report, etc.  The possibilities are frankly endless but start with your skills.

     
  • Kris Lyttle
    Kris Lyttle
    2010-10-13

    Ahh!… makes sense. I'll definitely give some thought on what I can come up with to contribute, and of course, follow further developments.

    BTW, I've been thinking that an external application interfaced somehow with BRL-CAD might be a better solution for electrical analyses and calculations. I came across an open-source program called Power System Analysis Toolbox (PSAT) that might be useful for this purpose; I'll probably investigate this and others a little more.

    I'd love to get your thoughts. Thanks again.

     
  • Hi,

    Downloaded latest 7.22.0 release of BRL-CAD, both yesterday and today. While running the installer, AVG detects a "Generic" virus, and aborts the install.

    Anxious to try it out, but need a clean install

    Thanks, Paul

     
  • Sean Morrison
    Sean Morrison
    2013-03-14

    Paul, the AVG detection is a false-positive that we have no control over.  It's been reported to them, but feel free to report the error as well.

    Also, please don't hijack existing threads with different topics.  You can post a reply or follow-up with another discussion in a separate new thread.

     
  • I apologize for the hijack… it was just the first heading I saw with BRL-CAD. New here,but belong to other forums, and do know how to behave. ;o)