Wednesday, December 7, 2011

mTCP doing something silly

Memes can be a lot of fun. One meme is the Nyan Cat, which started as an animated GIF of a cat with a Pop-Tart body, flying through space, leaving a rainbow trail. The animation is more popularly known as a YouTube video set to a remix of the song "Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!". Hence, Nyan Cat.

Kevin Lange has taken the meme to the "next level" and set up the Nyan Cat telnet server. This is an animated, color, ANSI-text telnet server that renders a loop of the classic Nyan Cat animation.

You may ask "Why?" Because he can.

FreeDOS has a telnet client included in the mTCP tools, by Michael Brutman. And as it turns out, mTCP's telnet is solid enough to render the Nyan Cat! Michael writes:
And now, for absolutely no reason at all, the picture:


The 386-40 is fine, but the PCjr is having a hard time drawing the screen that fast. It has stayed connected for over 20 minutes though, and it is still going.

The colors don't match exactly—CGA can't do the light background that the ANSI codes are using.
Again, you may ask "Why?" Because FreeDOS can. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The myths of open source software

I uncovered this interesting article from CIO Magazine's archives. "The Myths of Open Source" by M. Wheatley clearly presents (and dismisses) these top myths of using free / open source software (FOSS). In the general interest of helping to dispel some common myths, I thought I'd share the article highlights here:
  1. The attraction is the price tag, or the savings aren't real (Wrong!)
  2. There's no support (Wrong!)
  3. It's a legal minefield (Wrong!)
  4. It isn't for mission-critical applications (Wrong!)
  5. It isn't ready for the desktop (Wrong!)
But at the end of the day, how a company approaches free / open source software depends on the attitude of that organization. Paraphrasing from the article: Companies that work collaboratively with other organizations stand to gain much more from open source. Since the article was first published in 2004, we have already seen increased adoption of free / open source software. The most popular application stack is "LAMP", or "Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP (or sometimes Perl)". Facebook and other major web applications rely on LAMP to support their business.

And while the first myth was about price, I believe we'll continue to see more "wins" for free / open source software as IT budgets continue to tighten. It may not be about price, but the low costs and big savings are hard to ignore.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Open source: twice the value

I wanted to share this article, even though it doesn't directly involve FreeDOS. CIO Magazine recently ran an article about open source software, "Twice the Value" by Maria Korolov. The article discusses the trend of companies to release software using a dual license: open source, and proprietary.

From the article:
Some software buyers deliberately seek out such dual-licensed software. David Bragg, CIO of the Navy’s Naval Safety Center, says that dual-licensed software can be more secure, more customizable and cheaper than software that’s available only in proprietary form.

“At the Department of Defense, we certainly take security seriously,” he says. “The nice thing about open source is you get to see the code. It allows you to assess the software for security issues.”

Being able to open the hood also allows his team to modify the software if they need to. For example, when his team first rolled out software from Jaspersoft, a little tweaking was needed to integrate it with the agency’s security access cards.

… The naval center opted for the commercial license to get professional support and patching—but also to ensure that Jaspersoft stays in business so it can continue to support the product.
While I generally do not recommend individual developers go with a dual-license (unless you have a lawyer on hand to explain the details to you) it is interesting to see a major magazine like CIO, which is targeted at C-level executives, giving such an encouraging review to using open source software in a business setting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MS-DOS turns 30 years

I'd like to take a moment and recognize the 30-year anniversary of "DOS". Extreme Tech provides this history:
Thirty years ago, on July 27 1981, Microsoft bought the rights for QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) from Seattle Computer Products (SCP) for $25,000. […]

IBM released its Personal Computer in August 1981 running version 1.14 of SCP’s QDOS—but a few months later Microsoft produced MS-DOS 1.24, which then became the standard IBM PC operating system. In March 1983, both MS-DOS 2.0 and the IBM PC/XT were released. The rest, as they say, is history.
And of course, on June 28 1994, we announced the PD-DOS project, which would later become FreeDOS.

Monday, July 4, 2011

US Government and open source software

In a short memo on January 7 2011, the US Chief Information Officer, Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, and the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator sent a joint message to all US government chief information officers and procurement executives. The "technology neutrality" memo stated: "In the context of developing requirements and planning acquisitions for software ... agencies should analyze alternatives that include proprietary, open source, and mixed source technologies."

As Fred Blauer & Associates comments in their blog post from late January:
At one level, the directive is a reiteration of prior US Government policy, which requires agencies to adopt technology and vendor neutrality in acquisitions for IT, and which emphasizes procurement choices based on performance and value, free of preconceived preferences based on how the technology is developed, licensed or distributed. In 2004, for example, the OMB made clear that open source was commercial software, and in October 2009, the Department of Defense published clarifying guidance that sought to dispel much of the prejudicial ‘fear, uncertainty and doubt’ that surrounds open source technology.
However, the ‘technology neutrality’ memorandum also takes the policy an important step further. Because it is signed by three leading Government officials responsible for federal procurement, IT reform and the protection of intellectual property, this memorandum unequivocally places open source solutions in the mainstream of Government procurement options.

I work in FreeDOS specifically, but I'm an advocate for open source software in general. So it's good to see the US Government set these guidelines that put open source software on a more equal footing with proprietary software.

Friday, July 1, 2011

FreeDOS web site updates

I wanted to share some "behind the scenes" changes on the FreeDOS web site. You may not have noticed, but I've cleaned up many of the web pages, including some updates and new features. The latest changes include better support for mobile web browsers.

In the past, if you used a mobile device to visit the FreeDOS web site, you automatically saw a mobile-enabled page. In the last few weeks, I've trimmed what appears on the mobile version, so pages will load faster. For example, news items on the front page don't show full details when viewed on a mobile device—you can click on the link to read the complete news item.

That's great on a mobile phone or similar device, but for larger devices (iPad?) on a Wi-Fi connection, you may prefer to see the regular, full-size web site. There's now a link at the bottom of each page for "view full site" (or "view mobile site" if you're on the full-size version.) This sets a temporary cookie in your web browser, to change your web site preference.

You can change this manually by using m=1 in the URL to set the mobile view, or m=0 for the full-version web site (this is handy for bookmarks.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On community management

There's an article "Community management for coders" at the SD Times that's very relevant to FreeDOS, and free/open source software development in general. It has some great advice for anyone who's interested in working in a F/OSS community.

In the article, James Bottomley, distinguished engineer at Novell and maintainer of the Linux SCSI subsystems, has three pieces of advice for smoothing over the inevitable social friction that can occur within an open-source project:

  • Keep it technical.
  • Don't just say "no"; say "no" with a reason.
  • Organize a face-to-face gathering at least once a year, if possible.

Joe Brockmeier (also from Novell) has an insightful quote about the "coordinator" role: "Community management really isn't about 'running' a community, it's about working with and facilitating a community."

And Greg Kroah-Hartman (Linux driver project) has this advice: "The best thing I've learned over the years is humility. There is always someone out there that is better than you and can point out problems in your code. And that's good, because in the end what matters most is the code getting better, and by virtue of that, Linux getting better."

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Future of FreeDOS

I've been thinking a lot over the last few years about leveraging our niche, and the future of FreeDOS as a modern DOS. Now that I'm back at project coordinator, I'd like to help drive this forward.

I start by thinking back to the early 1990s. Microsoft released MSDOS 5 in 1991, and MSDOS 6 in 1993. But they had clearly set their future direction towards Windows (3.0 in 1990, 3.1 in 1992 - and of course Windows 95 in 1995.)

FreeDOS aimed to create a free, compatible alternative to MSDOS. And I believe we met that goal in version 1.0 several years ago. We've even extended the feature set (read: utilities) from MSDOS 6. But FreeDOS is still - essentially - a clone of the old MSDOS.

But in an alternate reality, what would DOS had looked like if Microsoft hadn't moved to Windows? I think we get to define what that looks like.

And we shouldn't be afraid to change the classic definition of "DOS" to get there. Minimally, applications written for MSDOS 6 should still run under whatever "FreeDOS 2.0" becomes. Aside from that, we are free to make whatever changes to turn FreeDOS into a relevant, modern operating system.

I envision FreeDOS "2.0" as being a more modern version based on FreeDOS 1.0 (or 1.1, if I can convince someone to package up our current software set into a new release.) But FreeDOS "3.0" or some later version should switch to a multi-tasking FreeDOS model, with expanded driver support. Especially network driver support.

I think FreeDOS will remain a single-user command-line environment. I'd like to draw on other modern environments to define that. The GNUish utilities are an obvious area to draw on. I don't believe we need to create a "mini-Linux" environment, but having those GNUish utilities will bring a familiar feel to FreeDOS. By extension, that crossover with Linux may be enough - by itself - to attract new developers.

FreeDOS 1.0 (and the alpha/beta releases) divided our software into package sets, or "disk sets", with BASE being the area that replicated MSDOS functionality. As we transition into a more modern "DOS", I think we'll have to reconsider what's in those categories, including re-defining the population of BASE.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I'm back!

Pat and I have been discussing this via email for a week or so, but it's official now. Pat needs to step away from the FreeDOS Project for personal reasons, and I've agreed to return as FreeDOS project coordinator.

So let me take this moment to say "I'm back!"

A quick summary for those curious about my whereabouts since doing the handoff to Pat in 2009:

I had planned to enter grad school, for a Master's degree in Management of Technology ("MS-MOT"). But a few months after passing the coordinator role to Pat, and right before entering the MOT program, I had an opportunity to apply for an outstanding job. I had to decide: pay the non-refundable tuition, and ignore the fabulous opportunity—or miss the tuition deadline to apply for the new position.

I went for the job. While I didn't get that job, those events led me to an even better position as campus IT Director/CIO at the University of Minnesota Morris, where I am now.

I never totally disappeared from FreeDOS, anyway. If you're on the 'freedos-svn' email list, you may have noticed I did some work on an updated FreeDOS Installer. And of course, I've been updating the web site.