Open Watcom Reflections 2012-06-21

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Welcome to the Open Watcom Project.

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce myself, thank my predecessors, and discuss our current project direction. I'm an electrical engineer with experience in the local area networking industry, both on the hardware and software side. I've used Watcom since the early 90's on numerous personal and professional projects, continuing to use it today as my compiler of choice. I became involved in the project full time last year assisting with advanced Fortran compiler development. This effort is still in the alpha stage, but I hope to make more progress with it later in the year. Right now, I am busy with platform development and testing, something that I’ll elaborate on in more detail.

I can’t go any further without offering a sincere thank you to our previous project maintainer Peter Chapin. Peter is a long time project developer who maintained the project through release 1.90. This release is a pinnacle of stability and performance that has been a work horse for many years. It took a monumental effort on Peter’s part to pull all the endless details together, getting each refined and released in final form. We all commend his efforts in this regard and miss his contributions deeply. Peter is now focusing on his doctorate studies in computer science, specializing in the Ada language. He’s making contributions that will benefit the real time control industry for years to come. This is truly important work and we all wish Peter the very best.

As we move forward enhancing the project, I’d like to overview the primary objectives that we hope to maintain. These are the objectives of stability, memory efficiency, runtime performance, industry standards, and platform support. Foremost, each release should be stable and highly useable for the majority of users. This requires having a thorough testing regime in place involving lots of team members. I believe this is something we currently have in place and can maintain. Secondly, the memory efficiency and runtime performance of both the tools and the compiled code should be paramount. This has been a flagship feature of the compiler, something that we should strive to continually maintain and improve. Thirdly, we should improve our standards conformance, providing our users with flexibility in porting their projects amongst different platforms and tools. Fourthly, we should strive to maintain and enhance the legacy platforms of our previous releases. As I’ll explain later, these older platforms are again becoming appealing, mainly due to their memory and processing efficiency. As listed, these are our primary goals.

As we progress throughout the year, we will transition from our current generation 1.9x to a new generation 2.0x. The initial 2.0 release will represent a major feature enhancement of the product. This will include major upgrades to the languages, platforms, tools, and standards compliance. This will be a large step forward involving many new modules and revisions. I don’t expect that we’ll be able to take this step for a number of months. One key feature of the 2.0 release will be the addition of new Unix platforms. These are BSD, Solaris, and OS X. We currently support DOS, eComStation (OS/2), Windows, Linux, and Novell Netware. With the expanding memory footprint and cpu utilization of Windows 7 and 8, these new and legacy platforms are becoming more appealing to users seeking to increase the productivity of their existing hardware. The expanded Unix support will also open up new applications for the compiler. For these reasons, many users are considering moving their development work off of Windows, onto Unix. I share this view and am considering moving all my code development to FreeBSD as soon as the port becomes available.

Meanwhile, since there have been significant bug fixes made to the 1.90 release, we are planning on releasing the critical fixes as 1.9x revisions. These releases will begin later this summer after we upgrade our Perforce and Bugzilla servers to allow us to make use of more recent tools. I am currently researching both issues to ensure that the transition goes smoothly.

I again want to thank all our existing developers for your continued support. We have a terrific team in place and I am looking forward to working with all of you. For those who are new and want to get involved, we welcome your help. Become active; study the documentation, the code; join the newsgroups; let us know of your interests and abilities; join in with the discussions. We welcome your support.

I hope to update this blog frequently over the course of the year to reflect our latest status and direction. For now, I’ll sign off saying thank you. I hope to talk with you again soon.

Best Regards,

Marty Stanquist

Maintainer, Open Watcom Project

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