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ReactOS: The Open Source “Windows”

A few days ago, I came across an interesting operating system known as ReactOS. Like many Linux OS it is open source and free to download. The only difference, it is NOT Linux or even a Unix-like OS! The first few lines of the site's home page explains what it is: "ReactOS is a free, modern operating system based on the design of Windows XP/2003". How much is it based on Windows? For one, it was designed to be binary compatible with Windows which basically means that you can install and run Windows applications AND install Windows drivers! They also kept the looks as close as possible to Windows without getting Microsoft pissed (as in icons, start menu design etc…).

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Don't get excited yet though. It is still in its alpha stage (that is before beta). Nevertheless, if you are eager at trying out like I was :-P, they have several download options available, from a regular installation CD to a VirtualBox compatible virtual machine. I decided to go for the regular installation (only 65MB for the ISO) and run it in VirtualBox. As you can see it is similar to XP's installation wizard, nice and blue.

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The developers cut back on the programs and and applications, so you have none of that bloat Windows sometimes install. It doesn't even come with a properly working browser (there was some version of IE that didn't quite work). However, applications are only a click away since they provide a way to get your favorite software.

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I right away tried to get Opera installed (it did not want to download Firefox at the time for some reason), it failed the first time (took over CPU) and I had to kill it through the task manager, which is familiar ;-).

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I decided to test out its binary compatibility to Windows (and I didn't want to keep running Opera…) by downloading the Windows version of Firefox and installing it. The installation was successful, from beginning to running the browser. I also decided to try it out in VMware, all good!

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ReactOS looks like a very promising operating system. It could truly revolutionize computers, especially in places where migrating to newer Windows is a pain. I could also see this OS running on cheap portable devices, maybe even one of those OLPC laptops. If they plan on releasing it fully and keeping it update, "XP" just might be the longest living OS in existence!

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