(ReactOS review) ReactOS 0.3.16 review offers a cursory review of a development version (alpha release) of ReactOS – ReactOS 0.3.16.
ReactOS is an Open Source operating system designed to be binary-compatible with Microsoft Windows operating systems built atop the Windows NT technology, like Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2012.
Code and design-wise, that means the core has nothing to do with Linux or other Unix-like operating systems. But this is a project I think has a bright future and the potential to play a very important role in the Free Software/Open Source community.
For those who for one reason or the other must use a Microsoft operating system, imagine what it would mean to be able to run their favorite Windows applications on a Windows-compatible operating system that does not have all the govt-sponsored backdoors of the original. Assuming the group I’m referring to really care about privacy, I think it would be a major development.
So what does this ReactOS look and feel and function like?
To answer that question is the reason I downloaded the latest alpha release for a test drive. The following report is my experience with it. Note that this was never intended to be anything but a cursory review of an alpha release of an operating system, so don’t expect more than that.
The ReactOS installer: Even though I don’t use a Microsoft Windows operating system, I’ve been doing a bunch of test installations of Windows 7 and 8 for sometime, so I have some familiarity with the Windows installer. At this stage in its development, the ReactOS installer is not as polished as the original, but it gets the job done. The installation process is a 2-stage affair. The screenshot below shows the first step of the first stage. It’s the Language Selection step. All the steps in the first stage are not mouse-friendly, so navigation is via the keyboard.
The hard disk selection step.
The filesystem selection step. Just FAT32 and Ext2. No NTFS.
At the bootloader selection step, you get to choose where to install the boot loader. The installer of the original operating system doesn’t give you that option.
And this is the boot menu. It heralds the start of the second stage of the installation process.
The second stage is where you may use a mouse for navigation.
Yes, ReactOS is truly a Free Software, released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).
You have the option to specify the administrator password, just as on older editions of Windows.
So that’s the installer. It works really well – for what it’s designed to do. I made two installation attempts in a virtual environment and never had one problem with it. I give it good grades. What about the desktop itself?
The ReactOS Desktop: This is where ReactOS betrayed the fact that it is still far from being ready for prime time. I didn’t bother to keep count of how many times something crashed. But crashes aside, which were expected, the desktop does look good. It even comes with two workspaces or virtual desktops by default. I don’t think I ever saw something like that on any version of Windows.
They even managed to make the menu look just like the original.
Another screenshot of the desktop showing some of the installed applications
This one shows the suite of LibreOffice components. ReactOS does not ship with LibreOffice installed. This was taken after I had installed it.
Talking about installing applications, the ReaactOS App Manager is just like your favorite Linux distribution’s graphical package manager from about 10 years back, though it does not have as many applications available for installation.
It does have about three dozen games, including a Steam client available for installation.
And several versions of Firefox are available, including Firefox 26, which until a few days ago, was the latest, stable edition of the popular Web browser available for download.
After installing Firefox 26, I could never keep it from crashing, which it did at every turn.
Even LibreOffice joined in the crash party.
And, no, repairing or reinstalling LibreOffice did not help. At least in the case of Firefox, I could restart it anytime it crashed.
Even the operating itself joined in the crash. Is this the infamous blue screen of death? The crashes were expected, so I was not rally bothered by them, knowing the developmental stage the product is in.
To sum, ReactOS appears to be a serious project, with a coordinated group behind it. Aleksey Bragin, the lead developer, is a Russian and their is a Russian ReactOS Foundation. There’s even a German non-profit organization called ReactOS Deutschland e.V. supporting the project. I think given enough effort and support, ReactOS could be in a usable state by the end of this year. I’m rooting for its developers, because I know that there’s room for ReactOS in the world of operating systems.
Resources: More information about ReactOS is available at the project’s home page. Installation images of ReactOS 0.3.16 are available for download from here.