Eagle licensing woes?

By | January 25, 2017

Eagle 8.0 is now out, and it seems to be attracting a lot of articles. Originally from Cadsoft, Eagle now belongs to Autodesk, and since the merger, a lot has changed. Eagle used to be a single license application; you bought the license that you wanted or needed, and it was yours. Since Eagle 8, that system has changed, and you no longer have a license-based product, but a subscription plan. From what I’m seeing on the site right now, it costs 15€ a month for a standard license (99 schematic sheets, 2 signal layers, and a big change, 160cm2 board area). Eagle Premium goes much further, with 999 schematic sheets, 16 signal layers, and unlimited board area. 1, 2 and 3 year plans are also available.

This change in licensing is good news, but also potentially bad news. Let’s have a look at both.

The good news is the cost. You no longer need to pay over a thousand Euros up front; if you need the product for a month, then you sign up for one month (you are free to cancel at any time). So instead of 1000€, if I can get my project done in a month, then it only costs 70€. Pretty good news for my wallet.

Now, the bad news (and before panicking, wait until the end of this paragraph). What happens if you stop paying? You no longer have a license to the software, and it stops working. All of your data is now lost, and you have to pay to get it back. Right? Wrong.

This system has already been used before, and I use it every day. I have a Microsoft Office 365 subscription. For 10€ a month, I get access to Office, for 5 computers. I once had a license problem (my fault, not Microsoft’s). Office suddenly stopped working on one of my laptops (I deactivated the wrong install). All my files were still there, and so was Office. I could start it up, I could even open files, I just couldn’t edit. The fact is, I hadn’t lost my data, it was all there, accessible. Now, granted. Let’s imagine the worst case scenario. Microsoft, for some reason, goes under. Office no longer exists. Don’t laugh, it could happen. The chances are slim, but it could. No-one guessed the fate of Yahoo, for example. So, no more company, no more product, and no more installation possible. Ten years from now, my precious data might actually be unreadable. I have a valid Office 2003 installation, so I can fish out that CD and try to install it, but Office 2016 would be literally gone. What would happen then? Well, I can already open Word and Excel files with other solutions, and I’ve never tried Access, but the chances are it works just as well.

The change os subscription is simply a change, following what the world already does. Yes, you no longer have installation files, and yes, you might not be able to recover some of the files, but if Autodesk does go down, someone, somewhere is going to create a program that will be able to read Eagle files. In the very worst case, create an installation on a virtual machine, and store that somewhere safe on an M-Disc. I actually did that once with the accounting software I used for my previous company, and 5 years later, when the software was obsolete and uninstallable, that virtual machine saved me a lot of hassle…

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