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Re: Regarding the Future of ELKS

Jody wrote, on 5/5/2007 10:58 AM:
> Hello everyone.  This is Jody, the current maintainer of the ELKS
> project.  I wanted to ask for everyone's opinion on what the future of
> ELKS should be.

I wish that I was enough of a coder to help.  Ironically, an OS that
can run on 8086 would be a great way to /learn/ to work on OS coding.
 In fact, I have been waiting for a usable ELKS so that I could begin
that learning process.

Unfortunately, I suspect that it's not the baby-talk-C work that's
needed in order to get the project moving again, but rather the
trickier work.

So maybe we could phrase the question another way: what prevents
people from contributing today?  Some ideas:

1. Cost of getting started to develop.  Even after reading the
archives and starting to study some of the code, I don't even know
where to begin -- and suspect that others are in the same boat.

Possible solution: If there was a wiki somewhere with a detailed
"State of the ELKS" reference page, so that someone could quickly
solve a problem or two as they had time, that might help.  Categories
like "Needs evaluation," "Needs testing," etc. might also be handy.
Such a reference might reduce the "startup cost" of contributing.

2. Cost of getting started to test/install/use.  I think that the FAQ
is good but needs to be improved.    A reference of known working
hardware would be good.  The "How can I help" part of the FAQ refers
to Outstanding Projects and Bugs sections of the main site, but I'm
not able to locate any such animal.

Possible solution: Make it a higher priority to create an installer.
Create a reference build that at least works enough to do development
on common systems.

3. Speed.  Compiling to test on an 8086 is maddeningly slow.

Possible solution: For true 8086-only emulation, find a good free
emulator, or contact someone who has a commercial one (emu8086.com,
for example) and see if they'll cut us a break on a pack of license
for core developers.


Create some VMware/QEMU images or HOWTOs to make it easier to test
some code virtually and take advantage of newer processor speeds.

4. Bang for the buck.  Ultimately, I suspect that folks can get a lot
more mileage working on other things.  Once I get my Compaq Deskpro
Model 1 on the Internet, of what use will it be to me other than as a
hobby or for bragging rights?  Probably not much, unless I use to
improve my development skills.  I would certainly enjoy getting it
working, and would probably learn a lot ... but there are probably
diminishing returns thereafter.

Possible solution: Try to locate people who are enthused about the
work as a hobby.  Computer science departments might also be able to
locate students interested in cutting their teeth on a simpler OS.
Does anyone have any contacts in this area?

5. Critical mass.  Today, there's just not a lot of communication or
energy in the project (that's observable from outside, anyway).

Possible solutions: Modernize a bit.  Set up a wiki.  Take a head
count of people still on the list and ask them about their interests
and skill sets.  Divide up some of the outstanding tasks.

I would be happy to contribute some cash for a software license.  I
can also help with the wiki if we went that direction.  I'll also
start dinking around with some emulators to see what the possibilities

Jody, if you think it's a good idea, could you encourage the
subscribers to post their interests and qualifications?  How many
subscribers are there?


Royce D. Williams                                - IP Engineering, ACS
personal: [first]@alaska.net                  - PGP: 3FC087DB/1776A531
work: [first.last]@acsalaska.net         - http://www.tycho.org/royce/

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