Yesterday I had a request from a client for a network diagram for a system I’m designing, and normally I create such drawings as a PNG file. But this client said “no, I need it in Visio, or similar style so we can edit it”. I have avoided Microsoft Visio in the past, mainly because of its price tag: $249.99 for the basic version, and a whopping $999.99 for the premium version!
That’s a lot of moolah for a simple drawing program. But I figured it was time to bite the bullet and just buy it. So I drove to my local Staples and was going to pick up a copy. I actually had it in hand…and then some serendipity happened.
I was passing the table where they have all the laptops, and this fellow was lifting up and looking over a familiar laptop, one that I had gotten for my lovely wife on her birthday and I commented as I was walking by him “That’s a good buy, I bought one for my wife.”. To which he responded. “That’s good to hear, but do you know if it has wireless 3G?”. I started to explain that such options are usually with add-ons, such as special USB wireless dongles sold by cellular companies, but it seemed to baffle him.
So, I explained the differences between WiFi and 3G/4G services and said, “that laptop is probably already connected to WiFi right here in the store, see that Starbucks next door? They have free WiFi”. He was amazed to discover this, even more amazed when I pointed out to him that every McDonald’s in the USA has free WiFi now also, as do most hotels, and some airports.
To which he replied “Well, I suppose I don’t need to pay for 3G then do I?” That struck me, because at that moment, I realized I might not have to pay for Visio either; not because I planned on shoplifting it from the store, but because I hadn’t checked for alternatives yet.
I said, here, let me show you. And I showed him how to connect to WiFi on the laptop, then proceeded to Google “Visio replacement”.
Some hits came up. Most were dead-ends…but one wasn’t, and that’s what I want to share with you today.
Since many WUWT readers are scientists, engineers and business people, they need something like Visio on occasion to map networks, processes, flowcharts, structure trees, etc.
So I want to share “Dia”, short for “Diagram”. Its detailed, open source, and most importantly, free. It also has a community springing up that is adding shape sets for various specialty designs.
From the Dia web page:
Dia is a GTK+ based diagram creation program for GNU/Linux, Unix and Windows released under the GPL license.
Dia is roughly inspired by the commercial Windows program ‘Visio’, though more geared towards informal diagrams for casual use. It can be used to draw many different kinds of diagrams. It currently has special objects to help draw entity relationship diagrams, UML diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams, and many other diagrams. It is also possible to add support for new shapes by writing simple XML files, using a subset of SVG to draw the shape.
It can load and save diagrams to a custom XML format (gzipped by default, to save space), can export diagrams to a number of formats, including EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF and PNG, and can print diagrams (including ones that span multiple pages).
We feel Dia is in a state where it can be actively used. Many features are implemented and the code is quite solid and mature. Try downloading Dia and tell us what you think of it. If you find any bugs, please report them with Gnome Bugzilla.
It seems pretty snazzy, and intuitive. I was able to doodle this up within seconds of opening the program:
So, for what I need to do, a networking flow diagram, it’s perfect, and free.
Some other examples for other venues are here.
My advice, get it. You’ve nothing to lose, everything to gain. While you are at it, if you want a simple and easy to use graphing program, may I suggest Dplot, which I also use. It’s a trial, and registration is cheap, and it has paid for itself many times over.
No this isn’t a commercial or paid plug, just stuff I thought I’d share this holiday season with thanks to the guy who needed some help understanding WiFi and 3G. It just goes to show that sometimes, good deeds are repaid.