Ralf Quint posted this recently on the FreeDOS mailing list. This was a reply to a post about searching for technical information about CHKDSK, so some helpful hackers could begin to work on a FreeDOS CHKDSK. I thought Ralf's comments were ones we should all take to heart. Please, if you maintain a FreeDOS program, take some time out to write documentation for it. Or, if you are a programmer who is looking for something to do to help the FreeDOS Project, write a technical discussion on how these programs should be doing their jobs. Certainly, I think this level of documentation could be contributed to the FreeDOS Documentation Project which is now a project on SourceForge.

Sorry to be probably a pain in the neck, but the current discussion about the specifications for the CHKDSK program shows me one more time one of the biggest drawbacks of the current work on FreeDOS:

There is no technical documentation whatsoever.

This is something the programmer(s) of a project have to do, in best case even before writing a single line of code. In the little over two years that i follow the FreeDOS, so many projects have been "abandoned" by their maintainers, have been picked up by others, but a lot of them have gone nowhere, even though quite a few people have shown interest supporting the FreeDOS project.

One of the problems with taking over a project of someone else, who won't be able/willing to continue a project, is that the new people have to get all (hopefully) existing knowledge before they are able to move on with a program. Without any documentation, this is reinventing the wheel over and over again.

And there are other scenarios where the existence of technical documentation is very important. Some of the programs for FreeDOS (for example Defrag) are already supposed to be a team effort (as the whole FreeDOS should be), but without a documentation what the program is all about and what technicalities are involved, it is hard to get several different people to pull the string in the same direction.

And there are cases where some fundamental information in one program might be also essential for other programs too (for example, information about FAT structures and routines to use these a important for half a dozen programs like FDISK, FORMAT, SYS, CHKDSK, DEFRAG, SCANDISK). If there is no documentation about the common issues, every maintainer has to do the research for this by himself, which IMHO, is a waste of time, a valuable resource for all active participants on the FreeDOS project.

I really like to ask all current maintainers of all FreeDOS projects (not only those of the urgent TOP list), to take some time now/ASAP to create such information about their programs, as this will save the a lot of time and energy for the whole FreeDOS project in the long run. In past discussions on the list there were quite a few people who mentioned that they would like to participate in a certain project, but don't know/like to program in C for example, as they are used to Pascal or BASIC. For these people, it should be possible to help the "coder" of a certain project with the creation/maintenance of such technical documentation, as most issues are independent of the used programming language (you need to have the same technical know how, regardless in which programming language you would try to solve a problem).

If all people interested in FreeDOS do their share regarding this matter, i am sure that we will get much sooner to a complete and stable FreeDOS 1.0 release and it will also easier to do the next step and implement all those nice features that people are asking about all the time on the mailing list.