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October, 2009

On Free/open source software

Just thought I'd let you know I've written a guest post at Collective Imagination on Free/open source software. This is intended to be the first of (probably) 3 guest posts on Free/open source software. The next post will begin discussing the qualities that an open source project must possess in order for it to succeed.

I'll probably republish the articles here after they've had their run on Collective Imagination.

30 years of VisiCalc

Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston released a small program in 1979 for the Apple ][ computer that changed history. VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program, and turned the personal computer into a serious business tool.

This month (October) marks the 30th anniversary of VisiCalc. While the DOS version of VisiCalc wasn't released until 2 years later, I thought it important to take a moment to celebrate this important milestone in PC history.

For those of you that are not familiar with VisiCalc, you are probably working with Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet applications. Under FreeDOS, you may have used AsEasyAs—which is still available. These spreadsheets still market themselves around some of the basic features first introduced in VisiCalc.

For those of you that are familiar with VisiCalc, take a moment to think back to what it allowed us to do. You can romanticize the memories—remember the good, gloss over the frustration. Please post your thoughts in the comments, below.

Open source software in the real world

Part 2 of my series of guest posts has been posted at Collective Imagination: Open source software in the real world. It uses FreeDOS to demonstrate the critical components an open source software project needs in order to get off the ground. In part 3 (this weekend) look for the core features a project needs to sustain itself.

Are you a web developer?

The FreeDOS web site has always been run by volunteers. M. "hannibal" Toal was our first webmaster, but after he left, I took on the web site duties. I mostly picked up design elements from my favorite web sites, eventually settling down to the "blue" web site we have now. It was a slow evolution, to be sure, since I am definitely not artistically inclined.

The new default stylesheet now uses an orange bar at the top for all our links to hosted apps at SourceForge. (SF used orange as their primary color, so it was less shocking to click on those links and then be presented with an orange-and-silver SF page.)

Since then, SourceForge has changed their colors, now using blue-and-grey. So I thought it might be a good time to update the FreeDOS web site, at least so the "SF" bar color is a closer match to SF's colors.

It occurred to me that if I changed that, I really should clean up the rest of the FreeDOS web design at the same time. But I'm just not a web designer, so I need help. I think it would be better to find a [semi-] professional web designer to update the FreeDOS web site stylesheet for us.

If you have a talent for web site design, or know someone who does, this is for you: Help us update the FreeDOS web site.

There are a few "rules" in finding a new FreeDOS web design:

  1. You must use the FreeDOS fish logo. However, feel free to create a new "FreeDOS" banner that uses the "Blinky the fish" logo. I prefer the original color, not the purple we use in the "glossy" fish.
  2. Our primary colors are blue. I'm not stuck on the particular shade we use now, just as long as it looks good with the FreeDOS fish.
  3. We must use the SourceForge logo. This is a requirement from SourceForge, since we are hosted by them (but you can choose other SourceForge logos that may better match your colors.)
  4. I'd prefer to keep the amount of web site edits to a minimum when implementing a new design; if you can, use the existing xhtml document structure. However, I'm open to moving content around, or editing the banner/footer, or moving some content to sub-pages. For example, maybe the Software page should be split into two pages, so the LSM stuff is on another page (or in the wiki)?
  5. The front page is tricky, since this needs to have information for new users, and news updates for current developers. We also have an "announcements" box, which may not always be shown. Other pages will probably be easier.

I'm not particularly fond of the fonts that we use on the site. Feel free to change them.

Interested? Web designers can submit their design idea via email (you can send them to the mailing lists for discussion if you want - but send your final version to me.) I prefer to get a link to your own web site, showing the design idea. I'll post the top finalists in about a month, and provide a way for people to vote for their favorite new web design. I'll pick the winner based on the votes.

Don't have a web site? Note that almost all pages on the FreeDOS web site recognize the "css=" directive, so you can specify your own stylesheet. For example:

What does the winner get? As a kind of "reward" to the winner, we can provide a "Original site design by __" link in the footer. This might be a resume-builder for someone trying to break into web design as a profession, or another reference for someone who is already a professional web designer.

Cultivating Open Source Software

Part 3 of my guest post series is now up at Collective Imagination. In this post, I discuss the features an open source software project needs to thrive - using FreeDOS as an example. Please leave a comment!