The ODA Finally Gets It

More than seven months ago, in a post titled “DWGDirect and DRX Explained” I wrote:

“Take a look at their [ODA’s] web site. This is what you see on the home page:

‘The Open Design Alliance is a non-profit membership-based consortium of software companies, developers and users committed to promoting the open exchange of CAD data now and in the future. In addition to setting standards for CAD data formats, the ODA also focuses on the practical matter of developing software libraries of exceptional quality that enable ODA members to develop applications capable of reading and writing the popular DWG and DGN CAD file formats. ODA members use the following ODA software libraries to support their efforts of developing CAD solutions’

…and they go on and talk about DWGdirect and DGNdirect, about how these libraries can read and write DWG and DGN files. Absolutely nothing about anything I said above. No mention whatsoever about the DRX SDK. You need to click on a cryptic link called ‘Public Downloads’ to even know that they offer something called the DRX SDK.”

Go take a look at the ODA web site today. This is what the home page says:

“The Open Design Alliance is a non-profit, membership-based consortium of software companies, developers and users committed to provide the ODA Technology Platform to its members, giving them the tools to create a wide range of technical graphics applications, including custom data access and editing utilities, visualization tools, and even full-scale CAD systems. The platform also supports the use of both DWG and DGN files, with import and export capabilities to other file formats.”

I have been yelling myself hoarse on this blog and elsewhere, that reading and writing DWG files is just one of the many things that the ODA does. I even wrote a book to emphasize my point. It feels nice to know that the ODA has finally found itself. I have been privy to a few things going on at the ODA for some time. I would like to give a substantial amount of credit for this “makeover” to Arnold van der Weide, the president of the ODA. I know that there are other people involved as well, but let’s give the devil his due. I am pretty sure that with the leadership and vision of Arnold, the ODA is a much stronger organization, which undoubtedly has a bright and strong future.

Today the ODA released DWGdirect.NET, the first ODA platform platform component built for use with the Microsoft .NET Framework. This opens the ODA’s doors to a whole new class of programmers, the kind that do not need to mess with C++, but a more easier language like VB.NET. Full press release here.

Way to go, ODA!! Now go do what you do best. Crack that 2010 DWG format and piss all over Autodesk once again. I only hope that the ODA does not go ahead and do something stupid like the TrustedDWG thing they did the last time around. Otherwise Autodesk will be the one pissing all over the ODA in court.

  • Evan Yares

    A few points: – The strategy, and much of the development work, for DRX was done long before Van Der Weide was at the ODA. – The credit for technical leadership at the ODA by all rights goes to Neil Peterson (who has been the ODA's CTO since 1990), and Sergey Sergey Slezkin (the ODA development lead since about 1991.) – The ODA has supported .NET for many years. It has supported development in easier languages, such as VB, for even longer. And it has supported a wide range of capabilities, beyond mere DWG read/write, since day one. – The ODA doesn't "crack" anything. Cracking is generally an illegal activity. The ODA legally reverse-engineers the DWG file format, as written by AutoCAD. – The ODA, so far as I know, does not have the goal of pissing on Autodesk. At least, that doesn't seem to be anywhere in either of the statements of purpose that you quoted. When I was at the ODA, I regularly talked with Autodesk management. I don't know if that's the case with van der Weide, but I would hope it is. – I'm not certain what you think was "stupid" about the "TrustedDWG thing." If you mean reverse engineering the watermark/signature in AutoCAD created DWG files: The ODA did so with the advice and guidance of some of the best IP attorneys in the US, Europe, and Russia, and with the complete support of the ODA membership. Including the ITC, of which van der Weide was president at the time.Finally, regarding the changed mission statement: Does this mean the ODA is no longer committed to open DWG interoperability?

  • Evan Yares

    A few points:

    – The strategy, and much of the development work, for DRX was done long before Van Der Weide was at the ODA.

    – The credit for technical leadership at the ODA by all rights goes to Neil Peterson (who has been the ODA's CTO since 1990), and Sergey Sergey Slezkin (the ODA development lead since about 1991.)

    – The ODA has supported .NET for many years. It has supported development in easier languages, such as VB, for even longer. And it has supported a wide range of capabilities, beyond mere DWG read/write, since day one.

    – The ODA doesn't "crack" anything. Cracking is generally an illegal activity. The ODA legally reverse-engineers the DWG file format, as written by AutoCAD.

    – The ODA, so far as I know, does not have the goal of pissing on Autodesk. At least, that doesn't seem to be anywhere in either of the statements of purpose that you quoted. When I was at the ODA, I regularly talked with Autodesk management. I don't know if that's the case with van der Weide, but I would hope it is.

    – I'm not certain what you think was "stupid" about the "TrustedDWG thing." If you mean reverse engineering the watermark/signature in AutoCAD created DWG files: The ODA did so with the advice and guidance of some of the best IP attorneys in the US, Europe, and Russia, and with the complete support of the ODA membership. Including the ITC, of which van der Weide was president at the time.

    Finally, regarding the changed mission statement: Does this mean the ODA is no longer committed to open DWG interoperability?

  • Deelip Menezes

    Evan: I'm not certain what you think was "stupid" about the "TrustedDWG thing." If you mean reverse engineering the watermark/signature in AutoCAD created DWG files: The ODA did so with the advice and guidance of some of the best IP attorneys in the US, Europe, and Russia.This is what I wrote on January 16, 2007========"I have always maintained that the ODA received lousy legal advise to begin with. I am surprised that they accepted it and went ahead and infringed the Autodesk trademark. The ODA has now realized that a lawyer who tells them that it is ok to reverse engineer the TrustedDWG technology and then comes up with stupid arguments when hauled up in court is not someone to go along with. They have been forced to bring heavy weights to fight for them.As I see it, the ODA's new legal team now believes that attack is the best form of defense, which is a normal strategy for someone who find himself in a position of weakness. That's why they are now counter-suing Autodesk for a laundry list of issues, something which I feel they should have done earlier instead of infringing the trademark in the first place."========Evan, what I thought and still think was stupid was the legal advice given to the ODA and the way the entire case was handled.Evan: "The ODA doesn't "crack" anything"My use of the word "crack" was in the context similar to "crack a password", decompile or as you say, reverse engineer. I know that cracking software amounts to bypassing the licensing mechanism, which of course, the ODA is nowhere close to doing.Evan: "Does this mean the ODA is no longer committed to open DWG interoperability?"I would like to believe that they still are as committed as were before this makeover. But I guess now they have accepted that DWG is just one of the building blocks of their Platform and they are branding themselves that way.From what I am being told there is a whole bunch of interesting things happening in the ODA on the technology front.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Evan: I'm not certain what you think was "stupid" about the "TrustedDWG thing." If you mean reverse engineering the watermark/signature in AutoCAD created DWG files: The ODA did so with the advice and guidance of some of the best IP attorneys in the US, Europe, and Russia.

    This is what I wrote on January 16, 2007

    ========
    "I have always maintained that the ODA received lousy legal advise to begin with. I am surprised that they accepted it and went ahead and infringed the Autodesk trademark. The ODA has now realized that a lawyer who tells them that it is ok to reverse engineer the TrustedDWG technology and then comes up with stupid arguments when hauled up in court is not someone to go along with. They have been forced to bring heavy weights to fight for them.

    As I see it, the ODA's new legal team now believes that attack is the best form of defense, which is a normal strategy for someone who find himself in a position of weakness. That's why they are now counter-suing Autodesk for a laundry list of issues, something which I feel they should have done earlier instead of infringing the trademark in the first place."
    ========

    Evan, what I thought and still think was stupid was the legal advice given to the ODA and the way the entire case was handled.

    Evan: "The ODA doesn't "crack" anything"

    My use of the word "crack" was in the context similar to "crack a password", decompile or as you say, reverse engineer. I know that cracking software amounts to bypassing the licensing mechanism, which of course, the ODA is nowhere close to doing.

    Evan: "Does this mean the ODA is no longer committed to open DWG interoperability?"

    I would like to believe that they still are as committed as were before this makeover. But I guess now they have accepted that DWG is just one of the building blocks of their Platform and they are branding themselves that way.

    From what I am being told there is a whole bunch of interesting things happening in the ODA on the technology front.

  • Evan Yares

    Regards legal advice: The distinction regarding *which* legal advice you think was stupid is probably important.I've said that the ODA sought and received legal advice with respect to reverse engineering the DWG watermark/signature, however, I've not said exactly what that advice was. Nor will I, except to say that it anticipated the possibility of a meritless trademark claim by Autodesk, and provided for the defense against such a claim.After Autodesk's threat of suit, the advice given to the ODA board by van der Weide's attorney was that Autodesk was not serious.I told the board at the time that Autodesk would almost certainly sue on the first business day after the due date in Autodesk's letter, if it did not get a responsive answer. Sadly, I was right.In any event, history speaks clearly for how the suit was handled. My conscience is clear: I spoke up, and pushed the board to handle it right, with little positive result, and with significant personal cost. Regards the word Crack: How would you feel if your comment "Crack that 2010 DWG format and piss all over Autodesk once again" ended up being quoted by Autodesk in a lawsuit against the ODA? It could happen.On the technology front: I'm sure there are interesting things happening there. The important question is whether those things are the *right* things, given the mission of the organization. Of course… that comes back to the new mission statement, doesn't it?Personally, I find it tragic that the ODA's mission has changed to something that resembles what a commercial for-profit company might do. Yet, in this matter, my opinion holds no weight. It is the board of directors of the ODA that decides what it's mission is.

  • Evan Yares

    Regards legal advice: The distinction regarding *which* legal advice you think was stupid is probably important.

    I've said that the ODA sought and received legal advice with respect to reverse engineering the DWG watermark/signature, however, I've not said exactly what that advice was. Nor will I, except to say that it anticipated the possibility of a meritless trademark claim by Autodesk, and provided for the defense against such a claim.

    After Autodesk's threat of suit, the advice given to the ODA board by van der Weide's attorney was that Autodesk was not serious.

    I told the board at the time that Autodesk would almost certainly sue on the first business day after the due date in Autodesk's letter, if it did not get a responsive answer. Sadly, I was right.

    In any event, history speaks clearly for how the suit was handled.

    My conscience is clear: I spoke up, and pushed the board to handle it right, with little positive result, and with significant personal cost.

    Regards the word Crack: How would you feel if your comment "Crack that 2010 DWG format and piss all over Autodesk once again" ended up being quoted by Autodesk in a lawsuit against the ODA?

    It could happen.

    On the technology front: I'm sure there are interesting things happening there. The important question is whether those things are the *right* things, given the mission of the organization. Of course… that comes back to the new mission statement, doesn't it?

    Personally, I find it tragic that the ODA's mission has changed to something that resembles what a commercial for-profit company might do. Yet, in this matter, my opinion holds no weight. It is the board of directors of the ODA that decides what it's mission is.