Saturday, May 20, 2017

Getting started in FreeDOS

Every time new developers email me to ask what they can work on, I realize I don't have a list to point them to. I'll put something on the website later, but I wanted to share a few notes to help new developers get started in FreeDOS.

What can you work on?

Help fix bugs
All software has bugs. Like the one in HELP that causes a  crash when any language other than English is being used. A great way to contribute to FreeDOS is by fixing bugs. Look through our Bugs database and contribute some code patches. If you can't find the current maintainer, ask on the freedos-devel mailing list.

Create new features
There are those projects that should be done. But, nobody really seems to want to do. For example, FreeDOS could use a good GPL-licensed CD-ROM driver.

Adapt FreeDOS to modern platforoms
There are complex problems that everybody would love solved. FreeDOS could really UEFI bootstrap/BIOS emulator. There may be open source projects that could be ported. Otherwise, it would be a very long term and complex project.

Pick up an existing project
Then there are those numerous abandoned open source projects. Some haven’t had any fixes or updates in many years. It would be nice if they found a new home and were adopted by a loving and caring family.

There are so many things to do. No matter how much is done. There will always be more.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Linux and FreeDOS

I grew up in the 1980s, and we were fortunate to have a computer at home. Our first computer was a Franklin ACE 1000, a clone of the popular Apple II computer. My brother and I taught ourselves computer programming on the Apple, and it was here that I developed my first love of technology.

Later, we replaced the Apple with an IBM PC. Throughout the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s, I was a hard-core MS-DOS user. When I learned C programming, I started writing my own DOS utilities and tools to expand the DOS command line. And of course, you know the rest of the story: in 1994, after Microsoft started talking about how the next version of Windows would do away with DOS, I started the FreeDOS Project so we could all continue to use the command line operating system.

I recently wrote an article for that tells another dimension to the FreeDOS story. In "How I got started with Linux," I talk about my DOS roots, and how I also used our "Big Unix" systems when I was a physics undergraduate student. I thought Unix was really neat, and it had a lot of great tools and utilities that helped me get my work done. I loved DOS, but I also came to love Unix.

And in 1993, I decided MS-DOS was getting a little stale. I still loved DOS, but I wondered if I could have something more like the Unix systems at school. And that's how I discovered Linux, then only two years old. I installed Linux on my home computer, with a DOS partition that I would use to boot into DOS and run programs and play games.

What I didn't mention in the article is that Linux inspired me to create FreeDOS. I first started using Linux in 1993. A year later, Microsoft announced that the next version of Windows would do away with MS-DOS. At that moment, I thought "A bunch of programmers on the Internet got together to create a free version of Unix. How hard could it be for us to do the same with DOS?"

That thought was the origin of FreeDOS. Without Linux, I don't think we would have created the FreeDOS Project.

I encourage you to read my article on about how I found Linux. It's an interesting story, with FreeDOS roots.