ReactOS is a free and open source operating system for x86/AMD64 PSs, based on the best design principles found in the Windows NT architecture, development started in 1996 as Windows 95 clone project, continued as ReactOS in 1998, the goal of ReactOS is “binary compatible with Windows”, that’s awesome, the latest major release – v0.4.0 was announced last month(Feb 2016), it’s about ten years from the previous major release, okay, let’s take a look at the latest ReactOS.
What’s the difference between ReactOS v0.3.x and v0.4.0? The highlights from the official news – ReactOS 0.4.0 Released:
- ext2 read/write and NTFS read support
- New explorer shell and theme support
- SerialATA support
- Sound support
- USB support
- VirtualBox and VirtualPC support
- Wireless networking
- CMake support for GCC and MSVC compilation
- Compilation times significantly improved
- GDB remote debugging interface for kernel debugging
- WinDBG support
Looks not so cool if you compare it with some popular operating systems like Windows, FreeBSD, Mac OS X or Ubuntu GNU/Linux, but it’s a huge step of ReactOS, if you would like to take a look at it, ReactOS provides live CD iso image, you can also install it by yourself, or download pre-installed VirtualBox/VMware image, I’ll use live CD in VirtualBox virtual machine to demonstrate ReactOS as below.
The size of zipped file(ReactOS-0.4.0-live.zip) is about 66MB, the size of the extract iso file(ReactOS-0.4.0-Live.iso) is about 198MB, compare to currently popular operating systems, it’s really tiny!
This is the first screen of ReactOS, the boot menu, there are 4 options here, but there isn’t significant difference for end-users, the most different thing may be the booting progress will be shown during the process:
Note that I’m not sure if ReactOS v0.4.0 doesn’t support the virtual Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop(82540EM) network interface, but the virtual PCnet-PCI II (Am79C970A) and PCnet-FAST III (Am79C973) work well from my side.
I only tested the live CD version of ReactOS in this post, I’ll like to try more applications on ReactOS in the future, in other posts, before that, I want to read more documents about ReactOS, and also see if there is something I can contribute, so it’ll take a long time, at least few weeks I think, but maybe it’ll just be another “pure test” about the compatible if I did’t have enough time …
ReactOS v0.4.0 is still a alpha version, it’s only for testing or development usage, although it’s cool to be binary compatible with Microsoft Windows, but the current state of ReactOS is still not powerful and stable enough for an end user, at least I can not use it at work, there are still many windows programs can not work properly on it, and the speed of development is really slow, if the next major of ReactOS also spent 10 years, we can not predict what the Windows will look like then, maybe there is no Windows operating system anymore, who knows? Anyway, still thanks for the work from the ReactOS developers and contributors, I’m not sure if ReactOS can act an important role in an educational scenario, the operating system course in the college is still teaching Windows XP and Unix, but Windows XP is not open source software, it’s not so easy to look the inside of its design, ReactOS is open source, and is based on the best design principles found in the Windows NT architecture, even binary compatible with Windows(although it’s not 100% yet), it may be good to use ReactOS instead of Windows XP, sounds not bad! I wish ReactOS can really provide a working replacement of Microsoft Windows in the future, it’ll be great to have one more choice than Windows/Mac OS X/Linux/BSDs!