ReactOS – Fake Or Potential Windows Alternative? Review And Extended Test Drive Of Latest Release

Introduction

After 10 years of development was released the new major release of ReactOS, this event was highlighted in the most biggest tech resources. But I’m not interested in just talk about release notes from “crazy Russian developers”, more interested is technical opportunities and possibilities.
Which architecture use React OS now, which hardware are supported, why users and developers might find it interesting, the degree of compatibility with Microsoft Windows? Is there a Windows-based copy with Unix-style? For these and other questions you can find the answers in this article (or ask new questions in comments).

Architecture

ReactOS Project development started in 1996 as new clone of Windows 95. Currently the goal of project is

provide an operating system which is binary compatible with Windows … such that people accustomed to the familiar user interface of Windows would find using ReactOS straightforward. The ultimate goal of ReactOS is to allow you to remove Windows and install ReactOS without the end user noticing the change.

ReactOS is written in C, some code is written in C++ and can be compiled with GCC, MinGW and Microsoft Visual Studio. ReactOS also use the code of many open source projects:

  • Wine, the Windows-compatibility layer for Unix-based operating system
  • Samba for Print spooling, NETLOGON, LSASS and other Windows services
  • FreeType – fonts rendering
  • NTFS-3G – Linux-driver for NTFS file-system
  • NDISwrapper – for running Wi-Fi drivers for Windows in GNU/Linux system.

ReactOS is licensed under GNU General Public License, GNU Lesser General Public License and BSD. Supported architectures is x86-only – big problem: today many software and operations system is x86_64 and not tested for x86 architecture. Kernel is designed for compatibility with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (Windows NT 5.2), user-space with Windows NT 6.3 (Windows 8.1). 2D hardware accelerated applications works OK, 3D – with many issues, more details is below.

Graphical interface

“Welcome to the Windows XP with new icons.” That’s not a joke, this phrase describes the 90% of ReactOS design.

ReactOS developers was written the clone of Windows Explorer called “File Explorer”. No need to play in game “Find the ten differences” – lack of fantasy is extremely clear. The samе with the majority of system utilities.

Something new in ReactOS Application Manager – software categories taken from Linux package managers and can download software from online repositories (ring a bell?) with a little surprise: without the software installed manually. Great, right?

Unchanged beauty of the Windows (sorry, ReactOS) command line. Well, if we can imagine a fantastic (probably an unknown concept for ReactOS developers) situation when ReactOS is popular and earn big money – then I never see any chance in legal battles with Microsoft because all elements of Windows GUI are protected by copyrights and patents.

Software

Remember about ReactOS support only x86 architecture and old API. This fact means that many modern applications can’t work. I can’t run this operating system on my hardware and must to test in VirtualBox. ReactOS support the VBoxAdditionals with periodical problem – 256 color depth in FullHD resolution.
Big problems with 3D – all games crashed after the start and my attempts to change the settings in the Qemu and VirtualBox has failed.

Networks support only 10 Mbit/s – good for the Windows XP times. The one and only working web browser in ReactOS – K-Meleon. The latest versions of Firefox and Chrome doesn’t work, Firefox 28 can’t be described as “stable”.

In the best Windows traditions – all works after reboot. The installer has the same interface as Windows XP – yes, with the classical “F3 = Quit”.

Let’s talk about multitasking – officially supported (information from ReactOS website), but works horribly. No benchmark is needed – just run 2-3 applications and see guaranteed freezes. Resources is more than enough, tested on a virtual machine with 2GB RAM. As Windows XP, ReactOS works badly with multi-core processors without effective load distribution.

OpenOffice.org and Code::Blocks work with good performance on small projects and have problems with scrolling on big. And yes, remember about multitasking and doesn’t run it together.

Resume

Still in alpha stage with many problems and without big prospects after 18 (!) years of development. I very like Windows interface with the GPL license in “About” menu, but that’s not enough. Bad support of hardware and work on a virtual machine or with hardware around 2003 – it’s a degradation for project with 10+ years of history. ReactOS attempted to companies to create the Cloud Desktop and Community Edition on Kickstarter and Indiegogo (note: not ended), but they ended unsuccessfully. One of most important to success is interested and unique features, you can see it in Linux, OS X, Windows. It’s cool to use something look as Windows XP with old (ReactOS actually  can run several new versions, but there is no guarantee that tomorrow developers will  drop the old API support) versions of the CCleaner, Total Commander, mIRC, UltraISO, Notepad++, AlReader, OpenOffice, but look very oddly if ReactOS doesn’t support writing in NTFS file-system, USB3 and “stable” work of 3D applications.

Instead of epilogue – don’t waste your time.

 

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  • Alexander Rex

    Your resume is wrong and confusing!
    Community Edition on Indiegogo did NOT ended unsuccessfully!

    Commmunity Edition has rised money and is the running project!!

  • Alexander Rex

    Also ReactOS runs not only “old versions” of CCleaner, Total Commander, mIRC, UltraISO, Notepad… but also recent ones!

  • Alexander Rex

    You want “stable” work of 3D applications?
    Check this!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGwKKV1l4Vk