Tag Archives | virtualbox

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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Moving Completely to Linux

Now that I have some free time on my hands, I have decided to move one of my main computers (my laptop specifically) completely to Linux. Unfortunately the dual boot way doesn't work with me, I end up booting into Windows eventually anyway. The reason is that I really haven't found a flavor that is actually "tasty".

At the moment, my netbook has become my Linux test hardware. Sure it doesn't have an amazing graphics card, but I don't use anything graphically intense to warrant testing on something better. Plus, if it works smoothly on a netbook it should be the same or better on a higher end computer. I've lost count at how many times the poor thing has been formatted and injected with a new Linux distro. From the top of my head I can list: Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, CentOS, Scientific, Mint, openSUSE, Mandriva, WattOS. Then there were the BSD distros (ok it's not exactly Linux, but Unix to be specific): FreeBSD (couldn't get GUI running properly) and PC-BSD (GUI based from the start). Unix didn't work out mainly due to the lack of software ported to it, I really missed Google Chrome for example. Even after years of experience with Linux, Unix had a bit of a learning curve.

So as you can see, I can't seem to find that perfect Linux OS that can replace Windows permanently. What am I exactly looking for? Nothing much. I just don't want to spend too much time after installation customizing things to look good. Prefer it to be a distro with a good community, that listens to the community rather than take decisions into their own hands. I prefer if it was based on Debian, but Ubuntu based is fine as well (just an extra hop from Debian). I don't mind the extra work needed to get stuff like WiFi working, it was almost always the case except with Ubuntu.

For now I've got my eyes set on PinguyOS which is based on Ubuntu. I tried it out in a VirtualBox virtual machine and it looked good. I have decided however to install it on my main laptop. The disk cloning process has begun, just in case I revert to Windows. The only software that would have kept me on Windows is Samsung's Odin used to flash firmware on my phone, however I have found a Linux alternative (but haven't tested) called Heimdall.