Thursday, June 15, 2017

Guest post: Contributing to FreeDOS Help

Longtime FreeDOS contributor Fritz Mueller responded to this month's Blog Challenge and sent his FreeDOS story. Fritz doesn't have a blog of his own, so I have shared it below with his permission as a guest post. This is part two, following from his earlier guest post about how he got started with FreeDOS:

(In part one, Fritz described buying a FreeDOS CD at a computer flea market, and later developing a bootable FreeDOS CD with 135 free games on it.)

While working on the FreeDOS games CD, I noticed different bugs and reported them to Eric Auer, the maintainer of several FreeDOS tools. I do not remember how it happened exactly, but one day I had the idea to translate the "Help" documentation to German. I thought I could do this within a few months, but it turned out I needed about four years for this job (of course with some interruptions).

I started with translation. Then I noticed that some of the "Help" texts, which are a part of the different files from each package, by different programmers, were out of date, options were added or removed or in the meantime programs of other programmer were in use. The "Help" files looked different, the links did not work, etc. Simply spoken, it was almost impossible to rely on the last version of the "Help" files.

So first of all, I tried to find the latest version of each tool, ran program /? to get the correct syntax and options, then started to correct the English version of the "Help" documentation. But the English information was wrong too, so I had to read the English manuals and to add them in the English translations for the "Help" files. As English is not my mother tongue, some bugs may have come in; I beg your pardon for this. Next, I added relative hyperlinks to other "Help" documents and checked that they were correct (in later versions, I found some Windows tools which helped me a lot, such as multi-replace, a tool to test all links, a tool to test if the HTML source code is correct, etc). Additionally, I had to look for line breaks after 80 characters in the HTML code so that the DOS browser showed the text correctly.

After that, I was able to start with the German translation. FreeDOS Help 1.0.6 had more than 100 English HTML sites with a lot of expressions from the "Readme.txt" files that I had never heard before, as I am no programmer, only a trained user.

But eventually, the last translation was done and I could publish FreeDOS Help 1.0.6.

As version 1.0.6 was still a little buggy, I did an update to 1.0.7. This must have been in Spring 2008.

Also in 2008, I made a trip to the United States and met Jim Hall in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This meeting encouraged me to finish this job.

I added the article "networking in FreeDOS" in the Help documents. It was from a German journalist, written in English, and I got his permission to add it in the Help files. As time went by, I had other things going on, and one day I got email from somebody on the FreeDOS team, saying they planned to release version 0.9 or 1.0. Now I had to hurry up. With the help of another German speaker, we got it. Of course, like always, with some minor bugs inside. Additional I made an Internet version which has more internal links than the DOS version, as the built-in Help browser does not need them. Adding them was a hard job, as the German and the English DOS versions each have about 320 HTML files, so all together more than 640 HTML files. And all links had to be checked that they were correct, without the Windows tool I would still work on it.

And eventually FreeDOS Help 1.0.7a was out. Even today, I have no idea why some people still use older versions of Help. You should not find a broken link or malformed HTML code or an line breaking text in Help 1.0.7a.

I just checked the DOS file download site and noticed that version 1.0.7 with Spanish translations is out. I had a closer look at the Spanish HTML files and noticed that the translator seems to have given up after about 40% of the translation. I can understand why; it's a lot of work for one person. It would be fantastic if this job could be finished.

-Fritz Mueller

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