Linked by Michael Hill on Thu 7th Oct 2010 14:59 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes This is a painful article to write. I've been a longtime fan and user of what is affectionately known as PC/GEOS over the years. However, I'm fearing we're nearing the end of GEOS.
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It's good to hear from an insider. I mean no disrespect in my comments regarding it not being a true operating system, more that I want to make it very clear to the readers that as it exists now it isn't an independent operating system and thus it still requires some compatible flavor of DOS.

Right, I understand. I just wanted to make it clear though that there's no technical reason it has to be like that. If a market opportunity popped up that required the DOS requirement to dissappear, it could happen very quickly.

So to one of your points, Breadbox claims they're making progress on a "32 bit" version of the software but we've heard that for several years now.

I'd guess its mostly planning out what they'd do if various opportunities arose.

There was some work done about 10 years ago to replace the kernel's memory manager with something that hooked into DOS4GW. It would have expanded the heap a lot, had very few compatibility issues, and maintained compatibility with the existing WinNT development environment. It would've been a stopgap solution though that probably would've bought a few years before it became limiting. I think it got to a point where the system was usable for about 10 minutes or so before it would crash.

I suspect that funding the development is the major challenge which goes to the paradox I present...some say build it and they will come while Breadbox says we'll build it when they come.

Remember, Breadbox is a tiny company. They traditionally made their money doing contract work for companies releasing GEOS based products. Rewriting an OS is a massive project. They won't be able to do anything significant without a massive outside investment.

All seem agreed, Breadbox personnel included that to serve up an acceptable, modern web browser experience PC/GEOS must be 32 bit (at least).

Without JavaScript, the browser was kinda pushing the limits of the system. When they tried adding it, things got unusably slow.

So in your opinion since you have real-world, working knowledge of the underpinnings, is this realistic?

Nothing's happening without a 7 or 8 digit amount of funding.

Is it achievable?

Depends on what the goal is. Breadbox had a small but *extremely* talented team. It's not a question of ability, it's about setting realistic goals and funding them.

And is it worth even doing recognizing that it may go faster to simply try and "recreate" the PC/GEOS experience (GUI look and feel, productivity apps, etc.) using modern tools on a more modern operating system base as Linux (though it's ironic to call Unix/Linux a more modern operating base since the technologies are now decades old!).

Those ideas have been tossed around. I've had conversations like that with the people who were most qualified to do the job. Every one of us had a different take on which parts were the important ones.

Personally, I loved the office apps 10-15 years ago, but at this point I feel they're so outdated that any attempt to modernize them would bear little similarity to the original products. I wouldn't prioritize them, but there are definitely key people that see the apps as the valuable part.

To me, the most value is in the UI code. The UI design was easily a decade ahead of its time, offering flexible layouts long before anything else did. I was able to design GEOS interfaces far faster than I can design something today in Java or .NET. So I'd care much more about keeping those layers of the system.

So to your point, isn't it somewhat of a "fools game" to even continue to invest in the platform as the most vocal Breadbox critics suggest?

Yup, that's pretty much the conclusion I came to right around the Breadbox got the rights to GEOS and released their own version. I don't think anything has happened since to change that.

I guess to cut to the chase, wouldn't it make more sense for Breadbox to do something similar as Apple versus expending the effort to rewrite PC/GEOS into 32 bits?

If anything happens, yeah, it'll become a UI layer over Linux or something similar. That's the only realistic option. But you're still talking a total rewrite, as you've got a giant codebase of 16 bit assembly code written for a segmented memory model.

It's a ton of work, and you can probably count on your fingers the number of developers that are familiar enough with the core system to recreate it. And then keep in mind that they haven't worked on it significantly in almost a decade.

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