13 February 2009 - Ideas for the Future of SkyOS

In December 2004, I paid thirty dollars for a SkyOS Beta membership. I was intrigued by the project. I couldn't explain it. It was just different. I ported simple software and came to be a part of the SkyOS community. I wrote SkyOS programming guides. I spent hours talking with other SkyOS users on IRC. I reported bugs and followed development closely. There was no other project that I devoted more time to than SkyOS. But for the last year or so, SkyOS has progressed at an ever slowing pace. With long periods of downtime between SkyOS releases, many users, myself included, gradually moved on to other projects. Finally, Robert made the announcement that SkyOS development is officially halted. I wasn't surprised, but I was saddened. Given what I know of the project and of Robert, and having seen in four years of development the same concerns raised, problems faced and subsequently fixed over and over again, I wrote a letter to Robert outlining what needs to be done to save his hobby of the last thirteen years.

Hi Robert,

This is Matt (mattst88) from SkyOS.

I read your response on OSNews. I want to comment on your possible resorts:

Do all of them, by

  1. Releasing SkyOS as open source/free software under the MIT or BSD license. By licensing under a very permissive license, it will allow projects from whom SkyOS has used code (e.g. Haiku) to use SkyOS's code where possible.

  2. Implementing a Linux-style development model. Source code would be available in a public git repository, of which you would be the only one with commit access. You, and you alone, would:

    1. control what goes into the repository
    2. define targets and make releases
    3. point people in the right direction

    This way, others do the heavy lifting and you help where needed.

    Once this has been done, I see a number of things that can be done to improve SkyOS.

  3. Move SkyOS-specific code in ported software upstream. As an open source project, it should be much easier to have official support from other open source projects.

  4. Reduce development time and duplication of effort by replacing SkyOS components with open source counterparts. As I have not viewed the SkyOS source, I cannot comment further on which components could be replaced.

  5. Port the Direct Rendering Manager to the SkyOS kernel. With DRM in place port Gallium3D [1], which should _greatly_ simplify graphics drivers. Using Gallium3D, SkyOS would be able to leverage support from a much wider base of developers.

  6. Finally, define a niche for SkyOS to fill. Laptops are more likely to have nonstandard hardware, thereby requiring all kinds of extra support, from strange integrated graphics chips, to countless wireless chipsets, to docking stations. (I do not mention power management, as it is becoming increasingly necessary even for desktop systems.) I therefore propose supporting only standard desktop systems.

I hope you find time for SkyOS in the future and implement my suggestions. With this plan, SkyOS should live on with community support, and you should be able to devote time to your daughter (I guess she has just turned one?) and family.

Thanks Robert, for everything. I'll turn 21 this month, graduate with a degree in Physics next year, and go to graduate school in either Computer Science or Computer Engineering the year after. I can definitely say that SkyOS has contributed heavily to developing my passion -- computers. I've learned so much from this project. I know there's still much to learn from you and from SkyOS, so I hope you continue the project.

Thanks again,

Matt Turner

[1] http://www.tungstengraphics.com/technologies/gallium3d.html
     http://www.tungstengraphics.com/wiki/index.php/Gallium3D
     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallium3D

I sent this email almost two weeks ago. I have received no response.

As an addendum to my email: SkyOS should further limit its hardware support by supporting only x86-64 systems in 64-bit long mode.

Another long time SkyOS user told me via IRC that he believes Robert has entirely lost interest in SkyOS. Evidently, he didn't even notice that SkyOS.org was down for two to three days after OSNews ran its article.

I sincerely hope he is wrong, but I can only doubt his claim so much. If SkyOS is not dead – great, let's see how we can give it new life and contribute to projects on which we've drawn support an inspiration. If it is dead, it was a fun hobby for Robert, me, and others involved. I certainly learned a lot and cut my teeth on SkyOS.

Tags: skyos