Saturday, December 24, 2016

What's new in FreeDOS 1.2

In planning what came next after FreeDOS 1.1, we discussed if the next version should be FreeDOS 1.2 or FreeDOS 2.0. It really came down to what a modern DOS should look like.

For a while, I argued that FreeDOS should become a modern DOS, that we should try to imagine what MS-DOS would have looked like if Microsoft hadn't killed off the MS-DOS product when they released Windows95. That is an interesting thought exercise:

A modern DOS would have to update its memory model. DOS uses a segmented memory model, which made sense when the PC was a simple computing device. With the Intel 80386 processor, you could have multitasking. That's why Linux was originally written for the ‘386. So a modern DOS would also support multitasking. At some point, though, this modern DOS will break backwards compatibility with legacy DOS applications. To preserve some method of compatibility, we reasoned, a modern DOS would likely include a “sandbox” to run these legacy applications.

But when you look at it, we already have that modern DOS. That's Linux. Because Linux supports multitasking, it has a flat memory model, it does all these other things. And if you want to run legacy DOS applications, you boot FreeDOS in a PC emulator like DOSEmu.

That's not DOS. FreeDOS is still DOS, and needs to remain DOS. So we agreed the next version after FreeDOS 1.1 would be an update to FreeDOS. That's why this version is FreeDOS 1.2.

FreeDOS 1.2 is still DOS, but it's more than a mere update of FreeDOS 1.1. We've made some significant improvements.

The first thing you'll notice in FreeDOS 1.2 is the brand-new installer. Jerome Shidel wrote a new installer for us, and it looks really good! The new installer is very simple—for both new and experienced FreeDOS users. If you've used FreeDOS before, the installer will feel very familiar. At the same time, if you're completely new to FreeDOS, you'll have an easy time.

We've also included new programs and utilities in FreeDOS 1.2. In this release, we finally include some games. Since so many people use FreeDOS to play classic DOS games, it seemed a good idea to include some open source DOS games for people to try.

And we include a bunch of new utilities that we hope people will find useful. More developer utilities, more user utilities. For example, we now include some programs to help you play sounds and update graphic files. We also provide other tools that help you connect to a network, including a DOS web browser.

The additional programs also make the new FreeDOS 1.2 distribution a lot bigger. The FreeDOS 1.1 distribution was about 40MB. The new FreeDOS 1.2 comes in several formats. We provide a CDROM installer that's 419MB, and an alternate CDROM installer that's the same size. (The difference between the two CDROM installers is that one is intended for certain older computers that need to boot from CDROM in a particular way.) If your computer cannot boot from CDROM, try one of the USB fob drive installers. The “Lite” USB installer is about 30MB, and the “Full” USB installer is 415MB. Both are USB-based installers; you can write them to a USB fob drive and boot your computer with that to install FreeDOS.

Check back in tomorrow for the official release of FreeDOS 1.2!

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