Saturday, February 27, 2010

New FreeDOS Software List

For years, we have used "LSM" (or, Linux Software Map) data files to describe the packages contained in FreeDOS. We still do, and we will continue to use them.

To make it easy for people to see what packages we included in FreeDOS, I wrote (long ago) a simple perl CGI that parsed the LSM files and displayed them as part of a web page. That worked well, for what it did. But it wasn't very flexible. Also, there was no way to ensure that the LSM files were filled in correctly. This only made things worse for the CGI.

For a while now, I've wanted to re-write the software list to use a database back-end. I have finally done this, and the new list is now available at:

Having the program information contained in a database allows us to do several things. We can still display the software list as a set of web pages. But we can now export that data as (correctly formatted) LSM files. Or as an XML file that the FDUPDATE program can use. I'll post something in a few days about how to get data out of the system.

A database also makes it easier for us to keep the software list up to date. In the old method, a webmaster had to upload an updated LSM file to a specific directory, using a particular name. With a database back-end, we can assign a few people to be "software list administrators" (for lack of a better term) that can import LSM files into the database, or edit fields directly.

I hope the new software list makes it easier for the FreeDOS Project to keep our program information updated. That will, in turn, make it easier for users to find our stuff.
Update: I forgot to mention that yes, I will update the old software list (lsm.cgi) to redirect users to the new software list. My intention was to leave the old pages as-is for about a week, so program maintainers could validate the data in the new list against the old list.

This weekend (3/6?) I'll edit the old lsm.cgi to redirect users to the corresponding page in the new software list. It probably will not be a "silent" redirection - I'll print a message so that users know to update their bookmarks, etc.

However, I'll leave the old LSM files in place (in /freedos/software) for a while, so maintainers can still compare against the old data if they like.

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