Limiting Freedom

In his recent post on the protest against the Chinese Maglev train, Ralph Grabowski raises an interesting question. He asks, “What should CAD vendors do when their software is used to design morally questionable projects?“. He hopes that “Dassault will see the light, and not permit their design software to be used for this project any longer“.

If CAD vendors begin to dictate to their customers when, where and how their software can and should be used, their customers (and the CAD press) will be the first to cry foul. And even if they place such restrictions, just how are the CAD vendors supposed to enforce them. We can very well see how people are taking Autodesk’s audit clause in their EULA.

Recently when SolidWorks changed their UI, they were crucified for “forcing” customers to work differently. CAD users don’t even want to be told “how” to design, leave alone “what” to design.

Users want (and the CAD press expects) all the freedom possible when choosing, upgrading, installing, learning and using their CAD software, which they have paid for and legally licensed. And when they get that freedom, CAD vendors are then expected to limit it. “Limited freedom” is listed as an oxymoron at

Ralph likened CAD vendors to politicians. “They take for themselves all credit for the good, and hope no one finds out about the bad“. Isn’t that what everybody does? Have you heard a dentist make a noise about how he screwed up someone’s teeth?

I think too much is being expected from CAD vendors, and virtually nothing from CAD users. If somebody must do something about the controversial Maglev project, it has to be the users of Dassault software, not Dassault itself. I can understand asking Transrapid (the German developer of the Maglev technology) to put pressure on the Chinese. But asking Dassault to prevent Transrapid from using their software on the Maglev project amounts to barking up the wrong tree.