Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How to get involved in FreeDOS

Interested in getting involved in FreeDOS, but aren't sure where to start? We have several ways for new developers to get engaged. Here are two starting points:

Port FreeDOS utilities to OpenWatcom
When we created FreeDOS in 1994, there weren't a lot of Free software or open source software C compilers for DOS. The few that existed were subsets of C, or so limited in their functionality that they weren't useful in creating the FreeDOS utilities. The most popular C compilers of the era were Borland's C Compiler and Turbo C Compiler. (A few years after FreeDOS, Borland released the Turbo C Compiler at no charge as part of their "Museum" collection of old DOS software.) It's not surprising that a lot of FreeDOS utilities were written using one of Borland C or Turbo C.

Since then, the folks over at OpenWatcom have released an open source software C compiler for DOS. But many FreeDOS utilities must still be built using the closed source compilers. We prefer to be able to compile all code in a compiler we can distribute in FreeDOS itself.

I encourage any new developer to pick up a FreeDOS utility, and port it to the OpenWatcom C Compiler for DOS. The difficulty level here is variable. For simple file tools, this is likely straightforward and may require little work other than writing a new Makefile instruction. For other utilities, such as disk tools, there may be much more work involved.

If you take on this challenge, I also encourage you to reach out to the program's developer or maintainer. The FreeDOS utility may not be abandoned; more likely, the developer may not have needed to make new releases if their utilities are feature complete and haven't had bugs reported in years.
Port GNU Utilities for FreeDOS
Years ago, the "GNUish" project ported many GNU utilities to DOS. But eventually the project stalled. Before GNUish shut down, they asked us to mirror their files. You can find them at gnuish on ibiblio. As far as I know no one has created a comprehensive update to GNUish.

I think it would be great for someone to pick up the GNUish project again. Port the GNU Utilities to FreeDOS using OpenWatcom, or DJGPP. This is likely challenging, as it will require creating wrappers for different functionality, and workarounds for other functionality that doesn't exist on DOS.

If you're interested in contributing to FreeDOS, but you aren't sure what to work on, you might consider porting the GNU Utilities or other Unix utilities to FreeDOS. We'd love to add them to our archive. Read more at Unix utilities for FreeDOS

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