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July, 2011

FreeDOS web site updates

I wanted to share some "behind the scenes" changes on the FreeDOS web site. You may not have noticed, but I've cleaned up many of the web pages, including some updates and new features. The latest changes include better support for mobile web browsers.

In the past, if you used a mobile device to visit the FreeDOS web site, you automatically saw a mobile-enabled page. In the last few weeks, I've trimmed what appears on the mobile version, so pages will load faster. For example, news items on the front page don't show full details when viewed on a mobile device—you can click on the link to read the complete news item.

That's great on a mobile phone or similar device, but for larger devices (iPad?) on a Wi-Fi connection, you may prefer to see the regular, full-size web site. There's now a link at the bottom of each page for "view full site" (or "view mobile site" if you're on the full-size version.) This sets a temporary cookie in your web browser, to change your web site preference.

You can change this manually by using m=1 in the URL to set the mobile view, or m=0 for the full-version web site (this is handy for bookmarks.)

US Government and open source software

In a short memo on January 7 2011, the US Chief Information Officer, Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, and the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator sent a joint message to all US government chief information officers and procurement executives. The "technology neutrality" memo stated: "In the context of developing requirements and planning acquisitions for software ... agencies should analyze alternatives that include proprietary, open source, and mixed source technologies."

As Fred Blauer & Associates comments in their blog post from late January:

At one level, the directive is a reiteration of prior US Government policy, which requires agencies to adopt technology and vendor neutrality in acquisitions for IT, and which emphasizes procurement choices based on performance and value, free of preconceived preferences based on how the technology is developed, licensed or distributed. In 2004, for example, the OMB made clear that open source was commercial software, and in October 2009, the Department of Defense published clarifying guidance that sought to dispel much of the prejudicial ‘fear, uncertainty and doubt’ that surrounds open source technology.
However, the ‘technology neutrality’ memorandum also takes the policy an important step further. Because it is signed by three leading Government officials responsible for federal procurement, IT reform and the protection of intellectual property, this memorandum unequivocally places open source solutions in the mainstream of Government procurement options.

I work in FreeDOS specifically, but I'm an advocate for open source software in general. So it's good to see the US Government set these guidelines that put open source software on a more equal footing with proprietary software.

MS-DOS turns 30 years

I'd like to take a moment and recognize the 30-year anniversary of "DOS". Extreme Tech provides this history:

Thirty years ago, on July 27 1981, Microsoft bought the rights for QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) from Seattle Computer Products (SCP) for $25,000. […]

IBM released its Personal Computer in August 1981 running version 1.14 of SCP’s QDOS—but a few months later Microsoft produced MS-DOS 1.24, which then became the standard IBM PC operating system. In March 1983, both MS-DOS 2.0 and the IBM PC/XT were released. The rest, as they say, is history.
And of course, on June 28 1994, we announced the PD-DOS project, which would later become FreeDOS.