Just to add (more) $0.02 ....

On Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 9:20 AM, Paolo Vincenzo Olivo <pv...@outlook.it> wrote:
> Hello there FreeDOS community,
> I've been a FreeDOS user for 3 years so far, and I'd like to thank the 
> developers
> for their effort and their amazing job.

They've accomplished very very much, and it works very very well.
Indeed I'm grateful, but there's still tons more to do.

We can't rest on our laurels. We need to be open to obvious
improvements. (But I'm not talking about stupid multimedia stuff or
anything overkill like that. I'm thinking much more reasonable goals.)

> Anyway, as clearly stated on FreeDOS home page, the purposes for ever 
> installing it are in fact
> legacy softwares, dos-games, and embedded systems. I'm sure this comes from 
> some sort of
> survey carried out among FreeDOS users. In light of that, I bet as well that 
> the idea of making
> a "modern version" of a MS-DOS\Dr-DOS\CP/M-86 like system (maybe 32 bit, 
> multitasking,
> real-mode, with modern software compatibility), was dropped after having seen 
> what people
> really needed, which was a true old-school dos, running on newer hardware, 
> being able to be
> burnt on a USB flash-drive and to be installed even without a floppy disk.

There are not enough active developers to make such big changes.
Multitasking might be nice, but in light of things like DOSEMU, it's
unnecessary. Also, 32-bit isn't necessary in light of things like
(CWS)DPMI. Now, that doesn't mean the kernel couldn't (somehow) be
massaged to build with GCC (as 386+ real-mode), but it "probably"
wouldn't gain much in speed. The only reason to do that would be to
remove the dependency on OpenWatcom (which is disliked in the Linux
and GNU communities).

> So, since there's plenty of good modern and even free OSes out there, the 
> only reason for
> FreeDOS to be still developed is to one thing and do it well: to be a 
> powerful DOS with many
> enhancements, an active community and a good support.

It can overlap, it doesn't have to be unique. Rust, Haskell, C++, Java
aren't all needed by every single developer, but people still use

Obviously the two big advantages to FreeDOS are freedom and compatibility.

> I can confirm that, I would never exchange FreeDOS with MS-DOS, whereas there 
> would be too
> many things I'd miss: starting from FAT32 support,

Win95 (aka, MS-DOS 7.1) had FAT32 support.

> passing through the FreedDOS additions (the drivers, jemm, wcd, 
> shsucd*,xfdisk, ntfs, fdapm,
> nnansi, unzip, foxtype, devload, dos /32a, swsubst, and many others)to all 
> the UNIX-like utilities
> (dosfsck, touch, tar, sleep, wget, du, lynx, the ports/repository system, 
> clamav, the syslinux
> bootloader, freemacs, alpine, grep,etc).

Most (or all) of these are not FreeDOS specific. AFAIK, they will also
run on any compatible DOS. But yes, many of them came from (erstwhile)
FreeDOS developers. But I don't think many of them are actively
maintained either.

> The reason that brought me about to start that thread is to discuss about 
> another possible
> employment of FreeDOS: a pocket, portable system for everyday use; and that's 
> mostly what
> I've been using it for in the latter year. I'm a Medicine student, and 
> personally I like carrying
> my own system with me wherever I go, especially in case I decided not to brig 
> my laptop with
> me. It's good to have all of your files on a USB bootable drive, so that you 
> can boot in your
> operating system, with all the programs you feel comfortable with, a system 
> you can feel free
> to mess with, without (mostly) worrying about the machine you're currently 
> running it on (and
> that's all the more true with University's computers, libraries' and internet 
> points' ones,
> computers of relatives and friends that contain important work and files).

Do you mean licensing or just simplicity? For the latter, the easiest
way is virtual machines / images.

> There are many other portable OSes available for that purpose on the Web, 
> many of which I tried
> out throughout years: TinyCoreLinux, PicoBSD, DamnSmallLinux, PuppyLinux, 
> KolibriOS, Minix
> and others. KolibriOS is in the best in terms of stability, system 
> requirements, speed, boot time,
> space occupied (insanely small); however, it's a lone standing system, which 
> means you have to
> accept it the way it is, with anything aside from the few softwares provided. 
> Hence I'd say Tiny
> Core Linux is best, and it's the one I used almost always, if not for PicoBSD 
> before it died out.

Small size is good, but better is compatibility, which Kolibri
somewhat lacks. Better are systems
that allow you to download / install (or better still, rebuild)
various third-party apps.

> As I mentioned I recently started adopting FreeDOS as my portable OS. The 
> reasons why I
> ended up choosing it include the possibility to bring my dos-games with me, 
> the fact I'm really
> fond of FreeDOS, its reliability and speedy boot. I guess people who commonly 
> use Windows,
> and don't feel comfortable with Unix/Gnu-Linux, and people who used to work 
> with MS-DOS,
> would benefit from trying FreeDOS as a pocket system. On youtube videos 
> talking about
> FreeDOS, FreeDOS reviews online, I saw many comments of people trying to use 
> it as
> everyday OS. Many argued about the lack of good GUI and criticized the fact 
> OpenGem was
> no more installed by default (it's a one minute work though).

GUI is irrelevant. It may be somewhat more convenient, but it improves
almost nothing else (e.g. raw functionality).

> Others looked disappointed after failing at making their optical drive 
> available (I had a similar
> problem with a sata drive,though I worked it out loading gcdrom.sys and 
> setting Native IDE
> mode on bios; I guess for most of those people it is just a matter of 
> switching between AHCI
> and IDE mode, and letting UDVD2 do the rest of the job).

Hardware support is always a nightmare for any niche OS. Worse is that
OEMs have no excuse as they are used to developing for DOS. But they
just pretend to not care anymore, so we can't even leverage the
decades of work they already did in the past. (Sigh.)

> Undoubtedly it would have been great if FreeDOS were a more modern, up to 
> date, 2017
> reimplementation of DOS; however as we discussed above, this unlikely ever to 
> happen,
> as if that's was the case, FreeDOS would lose  its very reason of 
> development, and,
> nonetheless, as Eric Auer told me, its simplicity and retro-compatibility 
> would be gone,
> alongside its speed.

I disagree. Honestly, much could be done to improve it. Heck, it's got
free sources! But most people aren't developers, and most developers
are too busy with other priorities (or just too lazy) to care about
"old" DOS.

We don't necessarily need major improvements, just lots of minor
refinements. Still, the lack of urge for this from most people is very

> I think that using windows 3.1 or 3.11 in enhanced mode would be enough to 
> make FreeDOS
> more user-friendly and more likely to be a very good choice when dealing with 
> everyday task
> involving a computer (see below why). It's true that windows 3 is not 
> freeware nor shareware,
> but it's arguably the most easy to find not freeware operating system 
> (environment) on the web.
> You can find it everywhere and many people, like me, still own their own 
> copy.  It is that old
> that I do not think microsoft would ever blame anyone for using it, but I 
> recon as well that this
> is the most important con of making FreeDOS more compatible with it (would it 
> be against FreeDOS policies?).

Yes, it's against FreeDOS policies (which prefers freedom, aka
free/libre). You can always suggest more focus on compatibility,
that's fine, but frankly it'll never happen. Most people don't care

As for Microsoft and copyright, it hasn't expired and probably won't
for several more decades (!), so no, I don't think they will ever let
us redistribute it or download it without their permission. They'd
most likely prefer that you subscribe to MSDN if you care about old
software like that.

> When I speak of making FreeDOS and Windows more compatible, I'm talking of 
> allowing the
> user to run windows in enhanced mode. It's commonly known in fact that 
> FreeDOS is unable
> to run win /3, since Windows would ask for Himem.sys and EMM386.exe to be 
> loaded first,
> and those two not only are prorietary but fail to load on FreeDOS, because 
> they recognize it
> as a "not correct MS-DOS version" (damn Microsoft).

It was using undocumented calls. DR-DOS somehow worked around it fine
(reverse engineering), but they never fully published their changes
(or at least I'm not aware of any obvious mentions, and they're long
abandoned anyways).

> Unfortunately this is not an issue limited to Windows: I discovered that some 
> softwares that
> require expanded memory (some games like Colonization, Master of Orion, some 
> media
> programs like Quickviewer) only look for EMM386 and completely ignore another 
> memory
> expander, resulting in JEMM386.exe and HIMEMX.exe to be useless in those 
> cases. I imagine,
> but I could be wrong, that a large part of the current FreeDOS community 
> doesn't even use
> JEMM386 because the Legacy software they need doesn't require expanded memory 
> (perhaps
> that's untrue for embedded systems?) and they prefer, as opposite, not to 
> load it and have the
> maximum conventional memory available for a better performance.

No, I don't use it (much) because I don't need it. Most software
doesn't need EMS, e.g. DJGPP stuff is DPMI only.

> Hopefully the only thing (maybe too hard?) to do is to make JEMM386 more 
> retrocompatible
> with it predecessor EMM.

It's no longer actively maintained, so that hope is unrealistic.

> Windows3 is a very good GUI for DOS (although sometimes I prefer GEM). It is 
> highly
> customizable, multitasking, and I like its tile window manager stile and its 
> file manager
> more than explorer and start button of the later windows releases. It has 
> many interesting
> and useful programs inside, all written in the new executable format. It can 
> use the Microsoft
> network client and the NDIS drivers (many are available still now, I use one 
> for my broadcom
> 57xx, and e1000.dos for my intel card on a another, 1 year old, desktop), 
> whereas all the
> browsers for DOS only look for a packet driver to be loaded (and this makes 
> internet on
> FreeDOS less versatile, unless you buy a old external network card).

Emulation / virtualization allows packet drivers to work without
problems. Granted, I'm not denying that modern hardware is heavily
underrepresented in DOS, but there's not much we can do about it.

> Moreover, with the svga patch (available online on various sites), you can 
> run it with
> 1024x768 resolution, 256 colors and small fonts, on any monitor supporting it 
> (almost
> any), with no effort. As opposite any windows 9.x, if used as a portable OS, 
> on any
> modern computer, would boot in 640x400, or something like that and 16 colors, 
> due to
> the lack of a proper video card driver. Many linux distros as well lack a 
> proper driver
> and fail sometimes to reach the display (sometimes the vesa driver does not 
> work,
> sometimes they detect a wrong card and load a wrong driver, like the nouveau 
> driver for
> the latest Nvidia cards).

Modern Linux halfway expects modern hardware. If anything, hardware is
cheap, and software is expensive, so it's considered (for good or bad)
"reasonable" to upgrade hardware more frequently than in years past.
So they probably just expect you to buy a cheap box (or Chromebook or
RasPi), etc.

> One would argue why someone would ever need windows 3 to run in enhanced mode
> on FreeDOS, here I say why I personally would:
> - win32 extension allows the user to run early 32 bit applications. These 
> include some
> win 95 programs, but, on top of all, the microsoft office 97 freeviewer for 
> windows 3.
> One major problem having to deal with DOS is reading doc files, and MS-WORD 
> has
> a WORD97 compatibility option when saving the document (sadly not a Word6
> compatibility option). It's true that you can export your doc (or odf or 
> others) files as txt,
> with dos compatibility, but this trick applies only to English-speaking 
> users; I need to
> read instead documents full of accented letters which are lost and replaced 
> by symbols
> during the conversion from UTF-8 to ASCII.

MS Word has a billion different formats, so it's a crapshoot on what
format you'll need to support. I haven't tried all the various DOS
converters, but surely some can handle some things appropriately. I
don't think relying on old, proprietary Win16 is the answer here.
Surely it depends on the situation, but there's many workarounds
(allegedly, as I don't do a lot of work in that area, no need).

> FreeDOS adds foxtype (thank you very much for this, it was really 
> appreciated) which
> resolves the issue, but, as a text displayer, doesn't allow any modification 
> of the file.

Presumably you want Blocek (editor) if you want to edit Unicode in
DOS. (Or maybe Mined or GNU Emacs.)

> - AbobeReader 3, runs in enhanced mode, and is able to easily open pdf files 
> if previously
> saved in legacy compatibility mode (one thing Adobe reader 1 cannot do). This 
> saves huge
> time if you really want to open the pdf in DOS (otherwise you would have had 
> to convert
> each page to an image, or use dospdf, which automates the process, but is  
> just able to
> correctly show a file no longer than 9 pages).

XPDF will convert to text. And there are some GUI viewers that will
jump to page. I don't know if any is truly perfect, but at least we
(barely) have "some" support.

I know it's cheap to keep saying, but hardware is so cheap these days
(and Linux so mature) that you will get derisive looks if you attempt
to use DOS with (bloated, incompatible, overkill) PDFs. "Just get a
Chromebook!" is probably the simplest solution.

> - Internet Explorer 5 and the java extension for windows 3 also need it to be 
> run in enhanced
> mode. Internet explorer is faster, more user-friendly, better-looking than 
> Arachne or Dillo,
> and above all, can rely on a ndis2 driver.

Unless you're running an old 486, then you "probably" can handle Linux
(although I'll admit that anything other than Firefox or Chrome is far
from perfect, and those two can eat lots of RAM if you're not

> - Many other useful software require enhanced mode: calmira project, media 
> player 5,
> irfan view, winzip, catfish, winbench, totalcommander, visualbasic, and others

Okay, but at some point you (as an end user) should want to remove
proprietary dependencies and rely instead on Free tools. If not for
their own sake, then for the sake of simplicity and better support.
E.g. there's very little reason to use old VB outside of extreme niche
corner cases or just plain curiosity / fun / insanity.   ;-)

I'm just saying, don't intentionally make things harder for yourself.
The days of demanding binary compatibility (for all OSes and all
programs) are (mostly) gone.

> - There are many nice games designed for windows 3 and most of the run in 
> enhanced
> mode by default: enhanced version of Civilization 1 for windows, enhanced 
> version of
> Quake, GTA I, DarkSeeds 2, Chessmaster turbo 4000, Pirates, Blade oF Exile,
> Outpost, Warcraft 2

Old Quake 1 was DOS (DJGPP) even back in 1996. Hexen2 (Hammer of
Thyrion) is based upon it as well, and that's well-maintained these
days. (Someone even ported Quake 2, but I never tried it.)

> Hope those consideration are kind of help, I would be glad to hear others' 
> opinions about
> any of the things I said and the experiences of other users who commonly use 
> FreeDOS.
> It would be nice if there's anyone who tried to run windows 3 in enhanced 
> mode. Finally
> I hope to hear the point of view of any developer, explaining why my 
> proposition is whether
> a viable option or not.

Compatibility is always important, but there's just not enough impetus
for anyone around here to fix that (that I know of). There's too many
fish to fry already, too many loose ends.

> I'll keep enjoying FreeDOS meanwhile, thanks again for your attention (I know 
> it's a long mail)

It's hard to suggest or even dream because some people don't like
change. Some just can't see the forest for the trees.

Personally, I've got my own little projects, so I keep chipping away
at the stone, hoping that it helps somebody with something eventually.
So while I agree with some of what you said (and would like to suggest
various other enhancements), I don't want to burden anyone else
without having done some of the legwork myself.

I guess that means "stay tuned!" (but don't get your hopes up ... at
all). "Patches welcome!"  :-)

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