Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What is FreeDOS 2.0?

I've lately wondered what should come after FreeDOS 1.2. I think it's time to talk about "FreeDOS 2.0." We've started a discussion on the freedos-devel email list, and I encourage you to join the conversation!

My thoughts:

FreeDOS is meant to be a Free software / open source software replacement for MS-DOS. As such, "FreeDOS 2.0" must maintain compatibility with MS-DOS. I am not suggesting changing core compatibility. "FreeDOS 2.0" needs to remain 16-bit, with a single-user single-tasking command-line environment that runs on PCs. Compatibility is key!

However, in looking at what "FreeDOS 2.0" might be, I think we are maintaining some legacy softare that doesn't need to be part of "base" anymore. So in looking at "FreeDOS 2.0," I am thinking about changing what tools and utilities are installed when you choose "Base packages only" versus "Full installation."

Let's start a discussion:

(1) What does "Base" mean in 2017 or 2018?
I think there are some packages we might take out of "Base" and move into a "Compat" package group, such as:
  • JOIN
  • others?
(2) Are there other packages we should install "Base" by default?
I don't want to make this a free-for-all, but perhaps there are some utilities that should be "promoted" to "Base." What utilities do you think should be moved to "Base" in "FreeDOS 2.0"?
(3) What packages do we include in FreeDOS 1.2 that shouldn't exist in "FreeDOS 2.0"?

(4) Is there anything missing in FreeDOS 1.2 that should be included in "FreeDOS 2.0"?

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In the freedos-devel email discussion, the consensus is that compatibility is key—and therefore, the next FreeDOS should not deprecate packages into a "Compat" package group. The "Base" package group should contain everything that replicates the functionality from MS-DOS. As Ralf commented: "One should be able to just replace a MS-DOS 5.0/6.22 set of disks with a Base FreeDOS disk set and have identical functionality."

Several folks suggested the install CDROM should be a live disk. Tom suggested this: "there is literally no good reason that FreeDOS must be installed to experience the beauty of a C:> prompt. just put every binary on the CD as it would be installed … I'd leave the sources in zip archives, though."

Not many comments on what programs should be "promoted" to the "Base" package group. Suggestions included Zip/Unzip, and the MD5 and other hash functions.

Since the changes would be incremental, we agreed the next version would be "FreeDOS 1.3."

Aside from that, we also heard recommendations to update certain packages (for example, Help). There's also continued interest to include development tools, and free games. More on that:

Certainly we want to make it easy for developers to get involved and make contributions in FreeDOS, so providing options for compilers and assemblers makes sense.
This can be more flexible. We included many games in FreeDOS 1.2, and I agree we should continue to include free software games in the next FreeDOS. I don't consider the list of games to be static; we can change the list of games with each distribution.

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