According to SoftMaker president Martin Kotulla, the only commercial word processor available as a native FreeBSD application, TextMaker, will no longer support that platform as of the upcoming 2008 edition. There will of course be a Windows edition, and a native Linux edition (which should be able to run through the Linux binary compatibility software in FreeBSD), but the FreeBSD edition will not grow beyond TextMaker (and the full SoftMaker Office suite) 2006 unless there is more demand from FreeBSD users, and the operating system itself becomes easier to develop for.
TextMaker has been around in one form or another for almost 20 years, but the native FreeBSD port did not exist until shortly after the release of TextMaker 2002 when some FreeBSD users requested it. At the time, Kotulla publicly said that only two lines of the TextMaker code had to be changed in order to compile the source code for FreeBSD. Since then, so much has changed in both the SoftMaker Office code and the FreeBSD base system that the simplicity of a native port has been erased.
I asked Martin Kotulla why it is so much more difficult to create a FreeBSD binary now than it was in the FreeBSD 5.1 days when the first native TextMaker binary was made. “The ever-changing ABI for one,” he said via email. “It’s not possible to create a FreeBSD application that works on 4.x, 5.x and 6.x simultaneously. Also, as we are making the applications more locale-aware (by supporting Unicode, by supporting different date, time, and currency systems), we find significant wrong behavior in the C runtime library provided by FreeBSD. For example, I remember that a certain string conversion or comparison function simply provided wrong results instead of failing, resulting in wrong sorting order inside the application. This is the stuff that’s hard to debug, and it’s discouraging.”
In a separate email, Kotulla said that there could still be a FreeBSD version of future SoftMaker products, but it depends on customer demand and the level of developer frustration when programming for FreeBSD. “Right now, FreeBSD demand is really low, and frustration is pretty high,” he told me.
The FreeBSD Project did not officially respond to two requests to comment on Kotulla’s FreeBSD-specific complaints. Unofficially, Jeremy Reed, who helps with FreeBSD marketing, suggested that Kotulla file bug reports on the issues he experienced, and that he consider dropping support for older FreeBSD releases.
Copyright 2007 JEM Electronic Media, Inc. No reprints without written permission.