I'm starting up a PCB projects with some engineer colleagues -- some signal sources that we've had cobbled up in the lab for a while. We don't have any project funding yet, and are currently doing our proof- of-concept work prior to looking for some funding.
Understandably, we can't use the PCB tools provided by our respective employers (conflict of interest and all), and given that even an affordadable design tool costs as much as a good used car, we're looking for some pointers on shareware or really-low-cost tools.
Which ones have you found to be effective? Which design tools have you found to be capable of real commercial projects? Which ones should I steer away from?
That's not recent at all. I think 4 years ago? (something in that ballpark) when I acquired my professional license for EAGLE, I read a lot about this in the Cadsoft newsgroups - and it's pretty clear that the vast majority of people there were using cracked copies. The error message given is quite obscure, intentionally so.
I only use libraries and schematics I have made myself, or downloaded from the Cadsoft ftp server. While I agree this particular issue is very annoying, and Cadsoft could/should have handled Markus's problem more effectively, it is still on the whole better than the other options, which are:
use really mavericky open-source software with no significant peer userbase,
use outrageously expensive, heavily copy-protected (dongle, GUID lock, MAC lock, or live Internet registration verification) proprietary software, oftentimes with inbuilt expiry dates if "maintenance" fees are not paid, or
use marginally functional, utterly proprietary tools from pissant vendors who try to lock you into using their fabrication services by squirrelling away your design data in unreadable binary files.
Don't get me wrong - if there was an open-source tool that had the same critical mass of users, and reasonably effective support, plus the same features I need out of EAGLE, I would of course prefer and recommend the open-source route for design re-readability in future epochs, and I would quite happily reinvest whatever time it takes to rebuild the libraries I've generated for EAGLE. Sadly, there is no credible open-source PCB CAD package yet.
Someone needs to do for CAD what OpenOffice.org did for desktop productivity software. Unfortunately, this someone doesn't have any time to work on such a project.
I wouldn't really classify this as DRM, because it doesn't protect the IP in the file at all.
What it appears to boil down to is that when you save a file from EAGLE, be it a component, a schematic or a PCB layout, the serial# of your copy (or more likely a hash) is embedded in it. There isn't really a crack per se for the 4.0x EAGLE versions; there's simply a widely-circulated serial number/installation key. 4.1x EAGLE versions recognize that key and won't load files that contain it. [Actually I thought the flag date for this issue was 3.xx to 4.0x but it was so long ago I'm probably misremembering].
Older versions of EAGLE didn't know to look for this blacklisted serial number. Therefore they don't complain when loading files containing "crackomatic" components. So you can continue to work on "poisoned" designs using the old version. It's only newer versions that have a problem.
For some time, Cadsoft was helping people out with this problem - they have some kind of stripper/converter there. I don't know the specifics of Markus' case, but it seems unusually unhelpful of them. I haven't dealt with the European arm of the operation, only the Florida-based US distrib - if that makes any difference.
I did exactly the opposite, if you'd care to read my post again. It is /always/ my policy to use open-source software wherever possible, for a variety of reasons - mostly the need to be able to access my data again in ten years' time.
Unfortunately, in this particular space there is no viable open source product.
By the way, speaking of evading the point - I notice you handily snipped my summary of the alternatives. No matter how evil this particular case might be, it still appears to me to be the least of four evils.