Ticket #12011 (closed enhancement: invalid)

Opened 9 years ago

Last modified 7 years ago

Compiling BIOS requires Open Watcom compiler

Reported by: Gaming4JC Owned by:
Component: other Version: VirtualBox 4.2.16
Keywords: bios,nonfree,openwatcom Cc:
Guest type: all Host type: all


VirtualBox-OSE was recently removed from GNU/Linux distros ( ) due to a compliance issue. It is required to use the non-free OpenWatcom compiler to make the software.

Please help find or adjust the compiling process so that this very useful software can be included again by NOT use OpenWatcom during the compile process.

Thank you!

Change History

comment:1 Changed 9 years ago by Gaming4JC

This just became a larger problem in my oppinion as this affects ALL Debian-based operating systems from which it has been removed from the main repo. Please see -

comment:2 Changed 9 years ago by michael

We would be glad to fix this, but we lack the resources to do so as our BIOS code has simply outgrown what bcc (which we were using before and which was always very limiting) can do. We have failed to find another free 16-bit x86 C compiler up to the job, and OpenWatcom is free according to OSI, which under the circumstances we considered sufficient.

We would greatly welcome any contributions to fix this, but we would not really welcome just a pointer to some other compiler and a note saying "use that, your problem to make it work". This is Free and Open Source software, so users should also play their part.

comment:3 Changed 9 years ago by bird

By the way, we provide alternative sources (assembly) of the components that normally get built with OpenWatcom, so VirtualBox can be built without it. There is nothing missing, we even use them ourselves when build the Solaris distribution of VirtualBox. For some reason this seems not to be sufficient for all distros.

comment:4 Changed 9 years ago by michaln

  • Status changed from new to closed
  • Resolution set to invalid
  • Summary changed from Compiling BIOS requires nonfree OpenWatcom compiler to Compiling BIOS requires Open Watcom compiler

So let's summarize: The Open Watcom compiler is not required to build VirtualBox at all. The actual compiler is free for anyone to download and use, but Debian does not recognize it as "free software" due to certain license clauses.

No one even suggested any alternatives. Please reopen this ticket when it's not just "Debian says don't do X" but rather "Debian suggests you do Y instead".

comment:5 Changed 7 years ago by drizzt

Can you consider using LLVM/clang instead of this non-libre compiler?

comment:6 Changed 7 years ago by michaln

If you show us how to build our BIOS using LLVM/clang, certainly! Though I'm not sure if you realize that generating 16-bit code is one thing, but supporting e.g. far/near pointers is a completely different ball of wax?

comment:7 Changed 7 years ago by michael

Please see comment:2 above, which still applies. We have invested some time looking for a solution to this, but did not find anything which could be done with the development resources available. Just now it is not a priority for us, which I trust you will understand if you look at the big picture, but if anyone can make this work to our satisfaction using a different compiler (that is, in a way which doesn't need lots of additional work on our part but still meets our standards) and provides the required build system patches we might well include them.

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