Having heard quite a bit about ReactOS, I decided take it out for a spin. Vee Dee Eyes became helpful once again by providing a vdi of the latest ReactOS release, 0.3.5.
ReactOS is a very distinct project. Nearly all open source operating systems are basically Unix clones. Be it Linux, OpenSolaris, or FreeBSD. ReactOS goes in a totally different direction by hoping to achieve parity with the Windows platform. The obvious benefit is that it could utilise the gazillions of applications written for the Windows platform. A lot of information on the project is there is the wikipedia article for ReactOS. Very interesting read.
After using ReactOS, I have to say it does feel genuinely Windows like, in both good and bad aspects.
The bad aspect- I encountered a blue screen error within minutes of usage. This has to expected. Not because it emulates Windows, but due to the fact that it is still in very early alpha stage. The good aspect - It feels just like Windows! There are some notable enhancements though. You can add software with a program manager (unimaginatively called Download!) like Synaptic or Yast as in Linux. There are multiple desks as in Linux, which is a real productivity booster. Firefox 1.5 is installed by default, with Firefox 2.0 available to install through Download!
Normal use is nearly impossible since it felt quite flimsy to use. The graphics was getting a bit garbled and there was quite a few issues with screen refresh. As a an early alpha version, this is pretty impressive. The memory footprint is really low and the total download was just around 40 MB as a rar file (uncompressed size - 160 MB).
Is there a chance of ReactOS gaining mass adoption? There are a lot of windows applications in the wild, and a lot of old PCs lying around. Also, if there is a need to run some legacy application, we can always virtualise with ReactOS. Market and the need is out there, with some solid development time put in there is every chance that ReactOS will be a genuine contender in the already crowded OS space.
Hello, Windows 98! Long time no see!
ReactOS Explorer: An enhanced Windows Explorer clone
Download! You can install programs using this interface. Very similar to Ubuntu's package manager. You can change the software source is required. There are a few useful applications available like utorrent, Firefox, Abiword etc.
Firefox in action. Notice the weird colour on the browser buttons.
And the Blue Screen of Death!