Weekly Report Aug 3 2014 – two reviews

Just two rants…

Mentor Graphics First Impressions

Mentor Graphics PADS Logic sucks. It feels like some diehard VIM user decided to make a schematic CAD software without having drawn anything in his life. It fails at even the most basic task of moving around components. As soon as a move command is attempted, the selected items would center around your mouse, which means even if you don’t move your mouse, your stuff gets moved. This makes it really hard to move things straight in a direction. (this is not a subjective preference, think about why professional gamers prefer 1:1 mouse movements without acceleration, it’s all about muscle memory)

There are also plenty of graphical glitches, so frequent that I pretty much need a macro to hit the END key (which is a screen refresh command) repeatedly during use.

Rotating things 90 degrees twice does not rotate things twice, instead it will un-rotate it. To rotate 90 degrees twice, you are forced to use the X flip command instead. I don’t know why they explicitly disallow 180 degree rotations. (people could argue that this is a subjective preference, one compromise here could be a fifth command that does 90 degree rotation while keeping the other four commands).

The selection tool also snaps to grid, and there is no “select within a polygon” function. It makes selecting multiple components really hard, confusing and unpredictable. There is no graceful way of handling selecting things that overlap if they are the same item type. The selection filter isn’t too useful if two of the same object types overlap.

These are all objective flaws, I have a lot of other complaints that people might find subjective. I now have a PADS hotkey cheatsheet on my desk to make learning PADS easier.

The one saving grace is that the zooming behaviour is the same as EAGLE, not like KiCAD, which is why I absolutely refuse to use KiCAD. Sorry open source fans.

Dell Precision M3800 Laptop Review

My own laptop is a Dell Inspiron 15R SE, which I am very fond of. My work gave me a Dell Precision M3800 to work with. I am not impressed.

The only good things about this laptop is that it is metal, it is thin, it is quiet, the specs are decent, my model has 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. I don’t care about the pricing because I didn’t pay for it. (estimated cost $1850 for my model, my Inspiron was $1100)

Now to the list of flaws:

No removable battery. No VGA output. These are forgiven for how thin the laptop is. But it is surprisingly heavy for it’s thinness and price. It is definitely not a “MacBook Air” competitor, even though I think it is trying to be.

There is no indicator on the outside of the laptop to indicate the power state. I can’t tell if the laptop is running, sleeping, or hibernating/off. This makes it hard to perform tasks with the lid closed. (the air outlet is on the screen’s hinge, I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to use this laptop with the lid closed)

The touchpad sucks. It is one gigantic button, and annoyingly, most of my clicks don’t even register at all. They drew a small line on the bottom to make it seem like an ordinary touchpad with two buttons but this is a lie. You cannot use two fingers to operate the touchpad because it will think there’s two fingers on the pad instead of one. Basically, you can’t move the cursor with a finger and click with your thumb (this would’ve been forgiven if they didn’t draw that line on the touchpad). This also makes middle clicking impossible. There is also no dedicated button to disable the keyboard (my Inspiron has a button to disable the touchpad and a LED to show if the touchpad is active).

The keyboard layout is terrible. There is no HOME, END, PAGE-DOWN/UP, these are on the special functions of the arrow keys instead. This means it is a pain in the ass to select text to home or end of a line. The arrow keys are tiny, making it terrible for gaming or CAD. The keyboard is also missing the context-menu key.

My company also gave me a desk docking station for this laptop. It covers one of the two air intakes of the laptops when you use it.

I think the USB ports of this laptop, and the dock, do not provide proper USB power. I suspect this because my Qi wireless charger does not work properly when plugged into this laptop or the dock. I do not have a chance to verify this with proper equipment, sorry.

I will probably use it at work as a desktop replacement only, occasionally bring it into meeting rooms, and obviously use it to work from home. I can’t mix the VPN, data, or software with my Inspiron, or else I would be just use my Inspiron for work-from-home as well. I will most likely get a keyboard and mouse for it as soon as possible.

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