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Operating Systems Software Windows

ReactOS Revealed 280

Posted by kdawson
from the waiting-for-a-reaction dept.
reactosfanboy writes "DRM Hacker Alex Ionescu explained the internals of ReactOS in a recent talk. Ionescu indicates that ReactOS is nearly 100% binary and API compatible with the Windows 2003 kernel, and that they are aiming for full Vista compatibility. Ionescu attempted to demonstrate ReactOS but only succeeded in installing it after two BSoDs. This alone should make it clear that ReactOS is still not ready for prime time." In what may be a red flag for Microsoft's lawyers, ReactOS is described as "an environment identical to Windows, both visually and internally." Here are slides from Ionescu's talk (PDF), which might prove more useful than the video offered in various forms at over 450 MB.
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ReactOS Revealed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:34PM (#18420521)
    ...but only succeeded in installing it after two BSoDs ... the Windows emulation seems perfect !
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ignavus (213578)
      Microsoft should ask him how he got the BSOD count down so low.
  • BSOD-OS (Score:5, Funny)

    by gardyloo (512791) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:34PM (#18420529)

    Ionescu attempted to demonstrate ReactOS but only succeeded in installing it after two BSoDs. This alone should make it clear that ReactOS is still not ready for prime time.
    Yeah, thank goodness the OS it's modeled after *never* does that.
  • Link? (Score:5, Informative)

    by russint (793669) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:34PM (#18420533) Homepage
    How about a link to ReactOS [reactos.org] in the summary?
  • ReactOS would still be unsupported and untrusted in business, and it's proliferation would only add to MSFT's dominance of the market.
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:45PM (#18420731)

      ReactOS would still be unsupported and untrusted in business, and it's proliferation would only add to MSFT's dominance of the market.

      ReactOS would be useful for companies looking for a way to move off of Windows but who have binaries that only run on Windows. Due to the proliferation of VM technology, a VM running ReactOS on top of your OS of choice could make migration away from Windows cheap enough to be an option. If ReactOS is cheap enough, it could displace Windows by itself for limited applications. A free OS Dell or someone can install that still lets them get paid for crapware and which still lets end users run games and junk software from Walmart could easily grab market share away from Windows. Anything that threatens MS's dominance with Windows, whether it detracts from Linux or your favorite OS or not, is good for motivating MS to make Windows better. If Windows is as good as other OS's, I don't care if it is dominant as much.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:59PM (#18420975) Homepage Journal
        Wine offers a much more compelling method of migrating from Windows. ReactOS would still require you to be running a full separate operating system. If you wanted to do that, you could run your current Windows XP licenses in virtual machines, and just run Linux on the host, or what have you. Granted, Wine isn't entirely there yet... but neither is ReactOS.
        • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:13PM (#18421197)

          Wine offers a much more compelling method of migrating from Windows.

          WINE is an incomplete re-implementation of the Windows APIs, while ReactOS aims to be a complete one. I don't have any real confidence that WINE will ever work reliably for arbitrary software. It is a nice crutch for specific, common applications. It is a reasonable route to building a quick and dirty port. I don't think it will ever fill the role of a method of moving away from Windows and still running random (often proprietary or outdated) applications.

          ReactOS would still require you to be running a full separate operating system. If you wanted to do that, you could run your current Windows XP licenses in virtual machines, and just run Linux on the host, or what have you.

          That is pretty much what I am doing now, except most WinXP licenses are not portable to new hardware and such a move is often accompanied by a move to new hardware. ReactOS is likely to be more lightweight than the current version of Windows and less likely to cause headaches with licensing and registration and DRM shutting it down arbitrarily. It also would have save my company a hundred bucks a license and that adds up.

          Granted, Wine isn't entirely there yet... but neither is ReactOS.

          I actually looked at WINE and a couple of commercial WINE-based offerings and ReactOS before I chose to run WinXP in a VM. It was the most expensive solution by far (other than Windows outside a VM) but the only one that worked. In future I could see going either way, but I think the overhead from ReactOS is likely going to end up less of a consideration that the necessarily limited range of WINE.

          • by BorgDrone (64343) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:30PM (#18421481) Homepage

            WINE is an incomplete re-implementation of the Windows APIs, while ReactOS aims to be a complete one.
            From the linked PDF:

            Wine makes up the bulk of ReactOS'sWin32 Libraries, which are mostly left untouched.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Stevecrox (962208)
              Umm didn't you make his point? Wine isn't a complete re-implementation of the Windows API's, sure much of reactOS can be made up from WINE but its still got more under its hood than just WINE as your qoute says.
              • by Echnin (607099)
                This is not an entirely direct reply to your post, but I was wondering about something. What if you ran ReactOS inside a semi-transparent virtual machine, like Classic on PowerPC Macs? That worked pretty well; sure, it had some compatibility problems, but for the most part it was pretty good. Would this work for ReactOS within Linux as well?
        • by julesh (229690)
          ReactOS would still require you to be running a full separate operating system. If you wanted to do that, you could run your current Windows XP licenses in virtual machines, and just run Linux on the host, or what have you.

          One key advantage to ReactOS in this scenario is that with a little hacking it could be made to run under Xen's paravirtualization system, which is apparently rather more efficient than full virtualization (as is currently required in order to run Windows).
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            There is work [reactos.org] towards Xen support. Though, Xen doesn't provide a GUI like VMWare or even Qemu so you'd have to run something like VNC to get the display.
  • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:35PM (#18420543) Journal
    Not until all the malware works too!
  • They might want to look up what "identical" means. There is still a very long way [oregontel.com] to go [reactos.org]. (I could have put a traditional screenshot up there too, from W2K or even W95, and it would still be true.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RealGrouchy (943109)
      It's hard to hit a moving target.

      I know plenty of people who use the "Windows Classic" skin on XP, because that's what they're used to.

      When MS updates its software, there are two types of changes, with different audiences: minor to moderate performance/security upgrades (which require most people to upgrade in order to still communicate with each other, i.e. MSO), and major interface upgrades, to cater to the magpies that will only buy the new version if it is shinier than the previous one.

      Unfortunately, th
      • by nuzak (959558)
        > I know plenty of people who use the "Windows Classic" skin on XP, because that's what they're used to.

        I use the classic skin on XP because Luna looks like something an intern slapped together in a week. I don't at home, because I have XP media center, and the skin on that actually looks halfway decent.

        Aero gives us the strangest window metaphor yet: the frame is translucent, and the window pane itself is opaque. Joy.

        (And no, I'm not really into OSX's unsubtle gaudy lickable widgets either)
  • Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:41PM (#18420655)
    This has inspired me to create a ground-up 100% reimplementation of the AOL client, identical in looks and functionality. Wish me luck!
  • BARF (Score:2, Funny)

    by Efialtis (777851)
    I just had to wonder, WHY would anyone develop another OS that is "identical" to Windows?

    Windows is bad enough...why do it all over again?
    • Re:BARF (Score:5, Informative)

      by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:48PM (#18420783)

      I just had to wonder, WHY would anyone develop another OS that is "identical" to Windows?
      Windows is bad enough...why do it all over again?

      So you won't have to actually run Windows in order to run Windows programs such as Photoshop, AutoCAD, and most video games. WINE isn't good enough for everyone.
      • WINE (Score:5, Funny)

        by Aphex Junkie (633436) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:02PM (#18421031)
        Wine
        Is
        Not
        Enough

        brilliant!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LiENUS (207736)
        Unfortunately for the most part ReactOS is just wine that self boots. They borrow heavily from the wine codebase for their win32 api compatibility. Naturally the driver compatibility doesn't borrow from the wine codebase. The real point of ReactOS isn't software compatibility but environment compatibility. The goal is to be able to install all your windows apps on a machine that only supports windows (due to poor ACPI support in linux or poor video driver support or any of a number of incompatibilities). Ho
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jimicus (737525)
        WINE isn't good enough for everyone.

        So instead of an emulation layer which is almost adequate for most tasks, but needs careful testing with anything you're planning on using in production because any action you try performing may or may not work as designed, we'll have a full blown OS which is almost adequate for most tasks, but needs careful testing with anything you're planning on using in production because any action you try performing may or may not work as designed.

        Great. Thanks.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cyber-vandal (148830)
          Sounds like SOP for any IT system to me. Does Windows always work as designed or as expected?
    • by Fordiman (689627)
      Just think: like Linux you could run 'Windows' on your iPod ^_^
    • Preventing Bitrot (Score:2, Interesting)

      by IllMnec (168165)
      This project can become very interesting for companies that rely on old equipment and software, which I think is a huge market.

      With Microsoft changing the driver model and the API of Windows with Vista, a lot of applications and devices will not be supported by the latest and greatest from Redmond. This means no security patches/bugfixes for old equipment and software.

      If ReactOS can emulate Win2k/XP, it could be used as a secure and supported replacement in those environments.
  • by rdmiller3 (29465) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:43PM (#18420689) Journal

    Having begun the struggle with adapting application installers to Vista, I think I'd be more interested in a version of ReactOS that ISN'T Vista compatible.

  • by 8127972 (73495) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:44PM (#18420711)
    Thinking about this:

    "In what may be a red flag for Microsoft's lawyers, ReactOS is described as "an environment identical to Windows, both visually and internally.""

    People at the Microsoft campus must be moving the furniture out of Ballmer's office as we speak.
  • ironic (Score:5, Funny)

    by icepick72 (834363) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:45PM (#18420727)
    If ReactOS is almost a Windows clone, but a sub-par one, this begs the question of why do we need ReactOS anyway? Well, to find the answer I went straight to the source reactos.org, but apparently they haven't figured out the answer yet either [reactos.org].
    • Re:ironic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Laur (673497) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:24PM (#18421417)

      If ReactOS is almost a Windows clone, but a sub-par one, this begs the question of why do we need ReactOS anyway? Well, to find the answer I went straight to the source reactos.org, but apparently they haven't figured out the answer yet either.
      Honestly, can anyone tell me what advantages that ReactOS has over something like Linux+Wine? I've heard several reasons before, but they don't seem to stand up to an honest analysis, such as:

      Application Compatibility - Wine can never offer as much compatibility as ReactOS. Since ReactOS actually shares Wine's code base, it is highly unlikely that ReactOS will have significantly better compatibility than Wine.

      Speed - Wine, since it is an emulator, can never be as fast as ReactOS, a dedicated OS. This is usually advanced without any sort of benchmarks or other proof to back it up. First, Wine Is Not an Emulator, it is just an implementation of the win32 api. There is no technical reason why Wine couldn't be as fast as other "native" Linux APIs, such as QT or Gtk+. Furthermore, there have long been reports of Windows programs running faster on Wine than native Windows.

      Driver Compatibility - ReactOS can use native Windows drivers. Projects like NdisWrapper [sourceforge.net] have shown that it is possible to use Windows drivers on Linux too, if enough people are interested. Of course, Linux already has drivers available for a great deal of hardware. There is also the huge issue of using binary drivers in an open source kernel. It still hasn't been settled whether or not this is ultimately a good or bad thing. However, it is generally accepted that open source drivers are much better than binary, and ReactOS would provide absolutely no motivation for hardware vendors to ever open their drivers, or even to target ReactOS as a platform.

      User Interface Familiarity - Windows users would feel right at home, with virtually no learning curve. This ignores the fact that anyone who has been through Win 3.1 -> Win 9x -> Win XP -> Vista will know that Window's interface is anything but consistent, things move around and change quite a bit between major releases. Also, if one desired you could rework something like KDE to be VERY similar to Windows, I believe that there are already distro's who try to do this (such as Linspire). There are still differences, but not really significantly more than between Win 98 & XP.

      Don't get me wrong, I think ReactOS is a pretty cool project, and it would be kind of neat to have an open source Windows clone, however as I said I can't really find much practical reason for it beyond the coolness factor. It seems like one would be better off just integrating Wine into Linux better. Please feel free to enlighten me. ;)

      • Re:ironic (Score:5, Informative)

        by julesh (229690) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:42PM (#18421661)
        Application Compatibility - Wine can never offer as much compatibility as ReactOS. Since ReactOS actually shares Wine's code base, it is highly unlikely that ReactOS will have significantly better compatibility than Wine.

        Not true. ReactOS uses some of Wine's codebase, but many key areas (window management, memory management, thread support, etc.) are rewritten from scratch to be more compatible with Windows own implementations of these. I've seen Wine fail to run applications before because of some subtle difference in how Linux handles these tasks to Windows. ReactOS can eliminate these issues.

        Driver Compatibility - ReactOS can use native Windows drivers. Projects like NdisWrapper have shown that it is possible to use Windows drivers on Linux too, if enough people are interested.

        Yes. Unfortunately NdisWrapper doesn't really work very well (my limited experiments suggest only about half of the cards out there work with it), CaptiveFS is slow, and no other projects have produced useful results in this field. This is because running a Windows device driver without a Windows kernel is quite tricky. NDIS drivers are a simpler problem: NDIS was originally developed to be an open, cross-platform specification by 3Com. MS have embraced & extended it since then, but at its heart it is still much more portable than many other driver types used by Windows.

        There is also the huge issue of using binary drivers in an open source kernel. It still hasn't been settled whether or not this is ultimately a good or bad thing. However, it is generally accepted that open source drivers are much better than binary, and ReactOS would provide absolutely no motivation for hardware vendors to ever open their drivers, or even to target ReactOS as a platform.

        Frankly, there are a lot of us who have become fed up waiting for working open source drivers for our hardware and would rather just plug a black box in and be done with it.

        Also, if one desired you could rework something like KDE to be VERY similar to Windows, I believe that there are already distro's who try to do this (such as Linspire). There are still differences, but not really significantly more than between Win 98 & XP.

        Actually, there are very substantial differences that can be deeply annoying because they're about the way the basic system works. Details like which control panel applet you use to start or stop services (e.g.) aren't as annoying (to me) as the lack of feedback when a program is starting (KDE does have some feedback, but it doesn't show if the program wasn't started from the window manager, whereas Windows will show it however you start your program). This can't be fixed easily in Linux: it needs the kernel to provide feedback to the window manager to inform it when a graphical subsystem program is in the process of starting up. Linux doesn't have such a thing as a graphical subsystem program, and the window manager is not a special process that could easily receive such feedback from the kernel.

        I think a lot of people have missed the real point of ReactOS. Including the developers, by all appearances. Windows won't run under Xen paravirtualization. There's no reason ReactOS couldn't be ported to it, however.
        • by Laur (673497)

          Not true. ReactOS uses some of Wine's codebase, but many key areas (window management, memory management, thread support, etc.) are rewritten from scratch to be more compatible with Windows own implementations of these. I've seen Wine fail to run applications before because of some subtle difference in how Linux handles these tasks to Windows. ReactOS can eliminate these issues.

          Do you have any proof that this is the case, i.e. is there currently an example of ReactOS running an application that Wine cann

      • by jma05 (897351)
        > Speed - Wine, since it is an emulator, can never be as fast as ReactOS, a dedicated OS

        Repeat after me.

        WINE stands for Wine Is NOT an Emulator.
        WINE stands for Wine Is NOT an Emulator.
        WINE stands for Wine Is NOT an Emulator.

        Did I mention that it is not an emulator :-) ? It is a compatibility layer.

        That said, I agree with the rest of the post. I tried the VMWare version a few minutes ago. It booted in about 10 seconds on my old computer (Athlon 2000+). I reduced the VM memory to 64 MB and it booted as qui
    • So I can buy support from a 3rdParty and get off the Microsoft forced upgrade cycle for the thousands of Windows XP installs that have absolutely no business value in upgrading to Vista.
    • From the presenation:

      Motivation
      • [MS Windows] plagued by bad design decisions made early-on in 16-bit Windows 9x history but kept for compatibility.
      • Plagued by a myriad of hacks to support badly written applications and drivers from 3rdparty developers.
      • Plagued by bad design decisions still being made to maintain corporate agenda (DRM, Driver Signing, etc).
      • Plagued by bugs in bundled software (Internet Explorer/Windows Media Player/Outlook Express) and bad security decisions (users run as Administrat
    • this begs the question of why do we need ReactOS anyway?

      It always amuses me when the uneducated try to pick up phrases they have overheard lawyers, scientists, or other educated people use, hoping to lend a false sense of respectability to their claims.

      Its ironic, because people who actually went to college immediately recognize that the person misusing academic or legal terminology is trying so hard to make a point that it probably can't stand on its own.

      Well, either that, or the speaker is an idiot.

  • by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte@nOspAM.freenethelp.org> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:48PM (#18420791) Homepage Journal
    "In what may be a red flag for Microsoft's lawyers, ReactOS is described as "an environment identical to Windows, both visually and internally."

    Oh, please... While I have no doubts MS will try to destroy ReactOs when it becomes too popular, the developers have made painstakingly difficult steps to ensure the proper reverse engineering is done ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_testing [wikipedia.org] ). They can sue all they want, they can't win this. (They can however make it an expensive legal wrangling...but then again, since it's open source, it's difficult to imagine any single lawsuit will be able to end the project).
    • by julesh (229690) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:16PM (#18421275)
      They can sue all they want, they can't win this.

      Except via patent claims, for which independent development is not an adequate defense.
      • software patents (Score:3, Insightful)

        by N3wsByt3 (758224)
        "Except via patent claims, for which independent development is not an adequate defense."

        Well, in Europe we still don't have (enforcable) softwarepatents. Though it being an Open Source project, I'm not sure under what jurisdiction it falls.

        But you make a good point: more proof that softwarepatents suck.
    • by bockelboy (824282)
      Yup, internally they're fine.

      If they start copying the visual aspects too closely, they are in danger of infringing on MS's copyrights on the look and feel. If not truely infringing, they may get close enough to get tied up in lawsuits for ... forever.

      Then again, it doesn't look like they're big enough to be on MS's radar.
      • by LionMage (318500)

        If they start copying the visual aspects too closely, they are in danger of infringing on MS's copyrights on the look and feel. If not truely infringing, they may get close enough to get tied up in lawsuits for ... forever.

        You mean like how Apple prevailed in its L&F lawsuits against Microsoft that dragged on for years? Oh wait, Apple didn't prevail, and eventually the two companies called a truce (with some money changing hands in the process). I seem to recall the EFF and/or FSF advocating boycotts

        • by samkass (174571)
          Apple didn't prevail because they'd signed away their rights by not reading the fine print while working with Microsoft, not because Microsoft didn't infringe or copy Apple.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RLiegh (247921) *
      They don't have to get a ruling. They can shut it down for the duration of the trail and make it effectively illegal to host or distribute in any country where the US has any economic influence. That's the US, Austrailia, India and Europe, and parts of Asia

      Good luck hosting the project in timbuktu.
  • memory footprint (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wonkavader (605434) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:50PM (#18420823)
    OK, I don't need to know this, but I'm an old assembler-head: I remember how much SMALLER DRDOS was than MSDOS. Microsoft makes bloated things.

    I want to know how much memory ReactOS takes up versus WindowsXP. Has someone run it who can trivially answer? Did these guys make a smaller, lighter windows?
    • Re:memory footprint (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:03PM (#18421047)
      The zipped vmware image is 19 megs. So I'd say its a bit lighter ..
    • by julesh (229690)
      I want to know how much memory ReactOS takes up versus WindowsXP. Has someone run it who can trivially answer? Did these guys make a smaller, lighter windows?

      Almost certainly. But given that major features are missing, that's hardly surprising.
  • slides unavailable (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrbobjoe (830606) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:50PM (#18420831) Homepage
    But you can see them here: http://www.alex-ionescu.com.nyud.net:8080/wloo-tal k.pdf [nyud.net]
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:09PM (#18421145) Homepage

    ReactOS still, apparently, has much of the graphics system in the kernel. Along with drivers. It emulates NT 4/2000/XP architecture, not NT 3.51, which actually had a cleaner kernel.

    But at least they didn't put in a 16-bit subsystem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheNetAvenger (624455)
      ReactOS still, apparently, has much of the graphics system in the kernel. Along with drivers. It emulates NT 4/2000/XP architecture, not NT 3.51, which actually had a cleaner kernel.

      So when they move to mimic Vista's kernel, this will all be moot then...

      But at least they didn't put in a 16-bit subsystem.

      Um, you act like an independent OS subsystem is a bad thing. The client/server kernel of NT is WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING, and also is part of why the NT kernel gets the respect it does in spite of the Win32
  • by Frogg (27033) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:11PM (#18421169)

    Ionescu attempted to demonstrate ReactOS but only succeeded in installing it after two BSoDs. This alone should make it clear that ReactOS is still not ready for prime time.

    hey, that sounds mighty familiar... [google.com]

  • Identical? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FunkyELF (609131) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:11PM (#18421175)

    an environment identical to Windows, both visually and internally.
    I didn't get that from the screen shots [reactos.org]. The text inside of cpu-z go beyond their container. The okay and cancel buttons here [reactos.org] look as bad as 20 year old Unix, I'm thinking of CDE or Motif or whatever that is called. In fact, every single thing looks a bit off. Is that on purpose for legal reasons? ~Eric
  • Old Hacker Rule (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:55PM (#18421877) Journal
    > Ionescu attempted to demonstrate ReactOS but only succeeded in installing it after two BSoDs.

    With alpha or beta software, before giving a demo, test what you are going to do in private.
    If it doesn't work, don't do it.

    Too bad. The world would be a better place with ReactOS. What we need is a fat ass investor with loads of cash and a grudge against Microsoft to donate to this thing.

    Linux has proven you can have a viable freeware OS. Now, while Vista makes everyones life miserable, there is an opening.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmorris42 (1458) *
      > The world would be a better place with ReactOS. What we need is a fat ass investor with loads of cash
      > and a grudge against Microsoft to donate to this thing.

      Nobody with that sort of cash is likely to be stupid enough to piss it away without a little thought. Just what problem is ReactOS trying to solve?

      Is it running Windows executables on a Free platform? Then just toss the money upstream to the Wine developers, they are making most of the progress anyway. Wine is already running major 3D games
  • I would be much more interested in an OS X clone running on my PC, than in a Windows clone that I don't need.
    Why clone a bad interface when you can clone a good one that many people would like to use?
  • mitigating lawyers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:35PM (#18422969) Homepage
    Aside from shooting the lawyers, the best way to mitigate the lawyers, I think, would be to get rid of the "MS GUI". That is, abstract it a little bit and make it an API-compatible theme engine, with the default looking different.

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