Monday, June 19, 2017

Guest post: Hobby programming with FreeDOS

Dr Owain Kenway responded to the FreeDOS Blog Challenge by sharing his story about installing FreeDOS on a netbook, so he could do more hobby programming. You can read Owain's story here:

FreeDOS - Not just for updating your BIOS »

Owain uses his FreeDOS laptop to write interesting Fortran programs, and has a photo of Conway's Game of Life, and a snippet of code from a program to calculate Pi. And as someone who used to write a lot of programs in F77 (my first compiled language) it was great to see Owain's samples.

In reading Owain's story, I especially loved his description of how modern we've made the latest version of FreeDOS (I credit the many folks who helped assemble the FreeDOS 1.2 distribution):

Well it’s mostly a machine for doing some hobby programming in Fortran. It is ideal for the task as it’s extremely portable, but also because it’s stress and distraction free: I don’t have twitter in prodding me in the background. No e-mail or youtube videos to distract. I don’t really have to worry about security or updates as it’s not connected to any networks. Instead I can focus on writing code.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how modern and easy to use the system is for software development. The workflow for coding on the machine is different from what I do on Linux only in that I don’t have git available. Even though I’m using compilers from the 90s, a user interface from the 80s and Vim. Both FreeDOS’s shell and 4DOS have tab completion (although it works differently from bash). If you really need them, Unix-style tools are available. Watcom’s wmake is a fairly adequate implementation of make. As a result I’ve tackled my first largish F77 project (I’ve always used F90 + whatever add-ons the compiler I’m using has) pretty successfully

Thanks, Owain!

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