ReactOS; a free alternative to Windows 26 November, 2008Posted by aronzak in Windows.
Tags: emulation, Open Source Adoption, portableapps, QEMU, ReactOS, Virtualisation, Windows
“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” is where ReactOS, what is essentially an attempt at a free Windows clone, derives its name. The project aims to be ‘binary compatible’ with Windows NT, which XP, Vista and the upcoming 7 are based on, meaning that users will be able to run native Windows applications without forking out for a licence from Microsoft, or turning to Bittorrent. It’s an ambitious goal, which, understandably, will take a long time to reach. It’s still in alpha, and aims to be 50% compatible with the NT kernel in version 0.4. But, despite being in the alpha stage of development, it can run some programs without a hitch. You can download .iso images from the main website, or prebuilt disk images for VMware or QEMU. The OS should only be installed on test machines. Virtualising is safer and easier.
Running ReactOS in QEMU seems to work quite well. The system boots up fairly quickly, but then runs slightly sluggishly, possibly because I have not set it up optimally. After the boot, you are confronted with a Windows 2000 look that just seems out of place in today’s operating system shells. There are no programs bundled with it (as one would expect from Windows), but you can use an inbuilt downloader that should automatically install programs from the project’s subversion repository. I didn’t have any luck with it. So, I quickly make an iso with programs from Portable apps on my USB stick. These run with a varying degree of success.
TrueCrypt, AbiWordPortable, Notepad++Portable, PortableAppsBackup, WinSCPPortable and 7-ZipPortable all seem to work.
PortableAppsMenu opens, and can spawn other applications, but it’s image is out. Otherwise it works.
ClamWinPortable opens a window, but does not have any icons, and freezes the OS after it successfully brings up a configuration dialogue.
VLCPortable cause the whole OS to crash in version 0.3.6, but running the latest build it starts. Icons are missing, however, and the logo seems to be upside down and blue (Inversed colours?) (???), some icons are missing, and trying to open a dialogue to open media causes the program to crash. Might be a long day tomorrow on IRC.
Both SunbirdPortable and PuTTYPortable had some errors and did not start.
So, as you see, there’s quite a range. But generally, there is a lot of programs that seem to be able to run fine. There’s a fair bit of testing going on, to establish application and driver compatibility, and to address issues. ReactOS is a neat collection of software that you can download and try out with virtualisation. But it’s not an OS to install on your computer, and probably never will be. One of the main premises behind the OS is that Linux is too complicated for most uders and they will never be able to use Free software that is diffrent from Windows. I think that this is wrong, especially given Linux’s long history of development. Also, doubts are handing in the air as to weather or not ReactOS really is a clean reverse engineering process, or weather code was stolen from the Windows kernel. There are no real IP threats to Linux.