Open Watcom is today a collaborative effort between SciTech Software Inc -of SNAP video drivers for Linux, Windows and OS/2 fame-, Sybase -which purchased Watcom long ago-, and the Open Source community to maintain and enhance the Watcom C/C++ and Fortran cross compilers and tools. The effort started six years ago, and an Open Source license from Sybase allows free commercial and non commercial use of the tools.
Sill pending and are the Linux and BSD ports of the compilers, and perhaps the most important going forward, support for the new AMD64/EM64T extensions. Scitech Software's founder Kendall Bennett, -open and willing as always-, engaged in a little chat with THE INQUIRER, hinting about the open source project's present and future. Here it is:
FC: I'm curious, since Open Watcom doesn't have 64-bit support yet, which compiler did you use to create the 64bit version of Snap video drivers for Linux?
KB: GCC. The code is all pure 64-bit. We have been building SNAP for alternate platforms with GCC for some time now, as we also support PowerPC and MIPS platforms in various stages of beta testing. All those platforms use GCC.
The interesting thing though is that we generally use Open Watcom for debugging. Open Watcom now includes GCC and PowerPC debugging support, so we do all our debugging is done with Open Watcom, even in the instances where we use GCC as the compiler. In fact all my debugging on x86 Linux (even when debugging the X server!) is done with Open Watcom. Unfortunately we have no AMD64 debugging support in Open Watcom yet, so on that platform we have to unfortunately suffer the miserable life of using GDB.
FC: Now that version 1.4 is out, what kind of help would you like to see from the open source community? Any expertise in particular is needed?. What's holding out the availability of an Open Watcom for Linux?.
KB: We'd need someone familiar with shared libraries to flesh out the shared library support in the compiler for Linux. Right now the compiler works great on Linux, but all the code has to be static linked and it uses the Open Watcom runtime library. We need the ability to generate ELF PIC compatible code, as well as link against existing SO libraries which would then allow Open Watcom to use the system GLIBC libraries. Unfortunately this also requires internal work on the compiler to make it happen (the ability to generate PIC code).
FC: I see that the recently released version 1.4 with quite a few changes in the areas of POSIX compatibility, what's holding the 64-bit support?
KB: the Open Watcom community is very interested in extending the compiler to support the 64-bit instruction set, but unfortunately nobody has yet had the time to really dig into the project. SciTech is too busy with other projects right now to spend any time working on it, so whatever help we can get from the open source community will be of help. As a matter of fact I invite anyone with an interest on C/C++ compilers and with some AMD64 / EM64T knowledge to join the community, we have a low volume announcements-only mailing list and also our own news server. In case you don't have news client installed in your system, the newsgroups are also reachable using Google's news interface - Google Groups [ here, and here] .µ
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