Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas

It's almost Christmas, so I thought I'd present to you this cute version of Blinky, the FreeDOS fish, wearing a Santa hat.

I hope everyone enjoys the holidays!

FD-DOC site move

Now that the bugzilla archive is done, I'm turning my attention to web cleanup. We have a lot of stale pages that are simply no longer being maintained (some are on and others are not - for example, old mirror sites.) My goal is to identify the "dead" pages and get them deleted/removed, and have other sites cleaned up or consolidated.

That means we're doing a realignment within the FreeDOS Documentation Project (FD-DOC.) Currently, we're working in "silos" at a time when we really need to pull together behind a common system.

Having a separate FD-DOC project to manage the Spec, FAQ, and other docs doesn't really make sense. Eric is kind of the default owner of FD-DOC, but really he just runs that site because of the FAQ. Yet the rest of us (including me, sometimes) feel that the FD-DOC stuff is "hands off" and that it's one person's to maintain and edit. The rest of the docs never get updated, and eventually become so old they have incorrect information about FreeDOS. So I want to make it easier for users, and have the information out there be as up-to-date and correct as possible.

When the FD-DOC project was spun off from FreeDOS in 2001, it made sense to have a separate project to manage our docs. Eugene was with us to start FD-DOC at SourceForge, and he went through all the FreeDOS documentation from the site, trying to organize everything into a single repository. FreeDOS was a lot more popular then, too. We had a lot of developers - and to manage everything, it was more effective to split up the major efforts into separate project.

But times have changed, we're a lot smaller now. We should start moving stuff back to the site where it is more visibly part of the larger "FreeDOS community" - where everyone can help to contribute, and it's not in any one person's hands.

I'd like to start by moving the critical docs first:
  • FreeDOS Manifesto
  • FreeDOS Spec
  • HOWTOs
  • Mini HOWTOs
We have a FreeDOS MediaWiki provided for us by SourceForge - I can import the docs into that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The FreeDOS Bugzilla is moving

Eric, Markus, and I have been discussing what to do with the FreeDOS Bugzilla. As you've probably noticed, the server often is slow to respond, or just returns errors. The server is underpowered to run a bug database, and Eric & I have run out of spare time to work on moving the FreeDOS Bugzilla to a new server. We've agreed things will only be worse for us when we need to apply the next bugzilla update. But the FreeDOS Bugzilla also isn't getting used much, so it's time to retire Bugzilla and use something else instead.

We are moving our bug tracking to the SourceForge Bug Tracker.

Here's the schedule:

December 1
The FreeDOS Bugzilla will be marked as "no new bugs". Developers will still be able to update bugs (close, add comments, reassign, ..) that are already there, but no one can open new bugs. At the same time, the new Tracker will be opened for new bugs.
December 8
We'll create a read-only html archive of the FreeDOS Bugzilla as of this date, and post the archive on the FreeDOS web site. At the same time, we'll retire the server.
Note that SourceForge does not provide a method to import bugs from Bugzilla into the Tracker, so we cannot do this automatically. Sorry.

Friday, August 29, 2008

What to add/fix in FreeDOS 1.1?

Now that summer is finally over, and with it many of the large (work-related) projects that were distracting me, I'd like to bring the focus back to FreeDOS 1.1. First, what features to add or fix in FreeDOS 1.1?

The FreeDOS 1.0 (2006) release was very successful. It was a solid distro that was a good, working replacement for MS-DOS for many users. I'd like to see us continue that with a FreeDOS 1.1. I don't think we need to look at sweeping changes - but there are a few nice additions that should be there:

FDUPDATE (FreeDOS Updater.)
Mateusz's excellent update utility can help to keep your system current with the latest releases of FreeDOS packages. Of course, the user has the option of disabling it (or would it be better for the user to have the option of enabling it .. what should be the default, on or off?) but having an auto-updater should help to reduce reports of software not working, yet 2 or 3 new releases of that software package have been released since the distro. A while back, I promised to make changes to the online FreeDOS Software List and the FreeDOS Files Repository (see Technotes 232 & 233.) I'm still ready and willing to make those changes on the web site, if we can commit to a FreeDOS 1.1 distro by end of 2008.
An updated Install program.
While more of a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have, an updated Install program would present a better first impression to new FreeDOS users. The current Install program is basically UI improvements to the originally text-mode, scroll-from-bottom Install program I wrote back in March 1998. Our Install program definitely needs a facelift. It should still run in text-mode, since FreeDOS is really a command-line OS anyway. Aitor has been updating the DFLAT+ library used in FreeDOS EDIT, and I think this library would make a good base for a new Install program. Not looking for new functionality, just a refresh on the Install program. Can anyone help here?
An optional floppy-only "Base" install.
This could be a 1.44MB emergency boot floppy image (like BALDER, or ODIN before it) with just the essentials from the "Base" set. Or maybe it's a multi-floppy (3 disks?) install of everything from "Base". What would be most useful here?
For FreeDOS 1.1, I think that's it. No major changes. Let's worry about other, larger changes in later releases - like an eventual FreeDOS 2.0.

I still believe those are the core issues - an updater, the installer, and a floppy-only option.

Regarding the installer, I've received some suggestions from users about what would make it even better in FreeDOS 1.1. One email from Thomas Mueller pointed out that he'd like "to select and see clearly which packages were to be installed". I think usability will be key for the installer; this is often the first time users will have seen DOS, so we should make it as user-friendly as possible. At the same time, we need to keep it a DOS application - not a GUI - so that we don't set a false expectation for what user-mode will be like after FreeDOS is installed.