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November, 2016

Almost there with FreeDOS 1.2

If you read my blog, you are probably also following that we are very close to FreeDOS 1.2. We released the FreeDOS 1.2 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) on Halloween, October 31. And earlier today on US Thanksgiving, November 24, we posted the FreeDOS 1.2 RC2.

You can find more info about the FreeDOS 1.2 RC2 release at my Open Source Software & Usability blog: FreeDOS 1.2 Release Candidate 2.

I'm very excited by the work everyone has put into these test releases. I think the FreeDOS 1.2 release will be one of our best-tested versions. Thank you to everyone who contributes to FreeDOS: developers, testers, and users.

So, what's new in FreeDOS 1.2? This new version doesn't change the game for FreeDOS in a very significant way. If you are on the freedos-devel mailing list, you may remember that we discussed what the next version of FreeDOS after FreeDOS 1.1 should look like. For a while, I thought we should think about what "DOS" might look like in 2016, if Windows hadn't displaced MS-DOS. I thought the next FreeDOS would be "FreeDOS 2.0" and would be more "modern."

But in the end, others convinced me that FreeDOS is still DOS, and we shouldn't look to change it. And they are right. FreeDOS wouldn't be "DOS" if it didn't look like DOS and act like DOS. FreeDOS still needs to be a DOS-compatible operating system. All of your DOS applications need to "just work" on FreeDOS. If we break any of that, then FreeDOS isn't "DOS" anymore. So we decided the next version should be an incremental improvement, and thus we are working toward "FreeDOS 1.2."

In FreeDOS 1.2, we changed many of the packages. Some packages were replaced, deprecated by newer and better packages. We also added other packages. And we expanded what we should include in the FreeDOS distribution. Where FreeDOS 1.0 and 1.1 where fairly spartan distributions with only "core" packages and software sets, the FreeDOS 1.2 distribution includes a rich set of additional packages. We even include games.

But the biggest change you are likely to notice in FreeDOS 1.2 is the updated installer. Jerome Shidel wrote an entirely new FreeDOS install program, and it looks great! We focused on keeping the new installer simple and easy to use. While many DOS users in 2016 are experienced DOS programmers and DOS power users, we often see many new users to FreeDOS, and I wanted to make the install process pleasant for them. The default mode for the installer is very straightforward, and you only have to answer a few questions to install FreeDOS on your system. There's also an "Advanced" mode where power users can tweak the install and customize the experience.

Please download the new FreeDOS 1.2 RC2 and let us know what you think. If you have problems, report them to the freedos-devel mailing list.

As always, I encourage you to install FreeDOS in a PC emulator or "virtual machine," especially if you already have another operating system (such as Windows) on your computer. A PC emulator allows you to install FreeDOS inside your regular operating system, and makes testing the new FreeDOS a low-risk experience.

Power users can also benefit from using a PC emulator, because you can use different virtual machines to test different things in FreeDOS. That's actually how I use FreeDOS on my own system. (I use GNOME Boxes, which is actually an instance of QEMU. I sometimes also use DOSEMU, especially if I'm developing programs for FreeDOS.)