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Open Source Windows IT

The State of ReactOS's Crazy Open Source Windows Replacement 208

Posted by timothy
from the still-waters-run-deep dept.
jeditobe writes with a link to a talk (video recorded, with transcript) about a project we've been posting about for years: ambitious Windows-replacement ReactOS: "In this talk, Alex Ionescu, lead kernel developer for the ReactOS project since 2004 (and recently returning after a long hiatus) will talk about the project's current state, having just passed revision 60000 in the SVN repository. Alex will also cover some of the project's goals, the development and testing methodology being such a massive undertaking (an open source project to reimplement all of Windows from scratch!), partnership with other open source projects (MinGW, Wine, Haiku, etc...). Alex will talk both about the infrastructure side about running such a massive OS project (but without Linux's corporate resources), as well as the day-to-day development challenges of a highly distributed team and the lack of Win32 internals knowledge that makes it hard to recruit. Finally, Alex will do a few demos of the OS, try out a few games and applications, Internet access, etc, and of course, show off a few blue screens of death."
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The State of ReactOS's Crazy Open Source Windows Replacement

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:11AM (#45400749)

    Making it not crash would be moving away from emulating windows, I guess?

    • by rjune (123157) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:28AM (#45400995)

      If they're getting BSOD's aren't they about 90% complete?

  • Good number (Score:4, Funny)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:13AM (#45400775) Homepage
    Just over 5120 more revisions to go until a nice round number!
  • by fey000 (1374173) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:23AM (#45400907)

    Will there be a Ballmer emulator as well? I could use one of those in my stock market crash simulator.

    • I can make something yell "Developers!" 37 times, make terrible decisions, and even throw chairs (as errors), but how do you simulate the sweat?

  • by jeditobe (2701857) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:24AM (#45400915) Homepage
    ReactOS takes an initiative and gets part of its kernel rewritten in c++
    Aleksey Bragin, the project coordinator writes [reactos.org]:
    "Monstera is a new implementation of a memory manager (along with a cache manager) compatible with the ReactOS kernel at source code level and providing the same binary compatible Native API through a lightweight wrapper. Monstera is implemented in a subset of C++ programming language. ...
    Key ideas:
    1. Object oriented language for object oriented kernel. When NT was implemented, C++ wasn't that good.
    ...
    4. Don't drift away too much. It's still based on NT architecture, but think of it as if Microsoft Research would decide to reimplement NT in C++ for fun."
    • implemented in a subset of C++ programming language.

      Doesn't C itself technically fit that criteria?

      • by draconx (1643235)

        implemented in a subset of C++ programming language.

        Doesn't C itself technically fit that criteria?

        No, not even close. For this to be true, a necessary (but not sufficient) requirement is for every syntactically valid C program to also be a syntactically valid C++ program. This is obviously not the case: for example, C allows the use of "new" as an identifier, while C++ does not. I'd wager that most C programs would not even build with a C++ compiler unless the writers specifically put in the effort to make it work.

        There are many other differences, and over the past 20+ years C and C++ have been diver

        • As far as I'm aware, 'new' is in C++ and not C, which proves my point so far....Plus, there've been articles in here with people talking about writing "C++" that is compiled as C++ and by the (a) C++ compiler, but is basically C, if you don't use all the new class stuff etc. etc.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_(C++) [wikipedia.org]

          (Disclaimer: I have done C++ programming but not C. I only know some of the differences academically.)

  • I had always assumed that Alex Ionescu was Romanian. But he says he was born in Canada in this video.

  • by bobbied (2522392)

    You know that Micro$oft will "react" quite badly to this. It's one thing to be Linux where the look and feel is totally different, but if you manage to get a reverse engineered solution for Windows even close to viable, the long knives will come out.

    I foresee one of two things happening... 1. The project fails because it is TOO large for the possible gains it could provide and takes too long to get working. 2. The project is successful but M$ kills it by FUD and actual legal action. Both of these are eq

    • by evilviper (135110)

      The ReactOS project is very likely OLDER THAN YOU...

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:15PM (#45401537) Homepage Journal

      3. States targeted by the NSA find it more viable than switching to linux, fund it to completion, and most of the world stops using Microsoft's version.

    • ReactOS is attempting to reimplement an OS that is EOL'd and 10 years old. I dont know that Microsoft cares too much.

      the long knives will come out.

      Good luck with that, clean-room reverse engineering is legal.

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        clean-room reverse engineering is legal.

        But patent infringement is not.

        Just remember that all M$ has to do is portray a believable story that using something is possibly a problem for the user. It's called FUD, and in this case would be easy.

        • Microsoft just needs to bring out a patent. For example, a method and system of controlling a computer's hardware. (with rounded corners)
  • Just ignore it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:44AM (#45401147) Journal

    It's an oddity, but why do we care about this project anymore? It started out back in '96 to be a clone of Windows 95. Then it was switched to be an NT4 clone. And every few years they update the website to say it's to be a clone of some newer version of Windows.

    Meanwhile, it's still pre-alpha, (barely) runs on almost no hardware, and runs almost no programs. Wine is in a far better state. And in recent years, Windows' dominance has even been severely undermined by Android, providing a real, viable alternative OS that happens to be free and open source. And Linux has long since usurped it as the #1 server operating system. So after a couple decades of delays with almost no progress to be seen, ReactOS is on the verge of outliving its usefulness, before it ever started. Sort-of like GNU HURD for Windows fans.

    There's plenty of open source OS projects out there that /. doesn't report on twice a year. Let's make ReactOS one of them!

    • Re:Just ignore it. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Pav (4298) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:50AM (#45401207)
      The NT4 kernel is the base for 2000/XP/Vista/Win7/Win8/Win8.1
      • by FreonTrip (694097)
        Only in the sense that the Linux 2.2 kernel is the base for modern Linux distributions. A lot of work's happened between here and there.
        • by Pav (4298)
          Not really... the Linux APIs are fluid, but Windows are much less so (at least not the core ones). That's not to say you don't get new ones.
      • Re:Just ignore it. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:06PM (#45401417) Journal

        The NT4 kernel is the base for 2000/XP/Vista/Win7/Win8/Win8.1

        No, the NT6 kernel is the base for Win Vista/7/8/8.1. Of course that was based on the NT5 kernel from 2000/XP/2003. And that was based on the NT4 kernel from NT4.0. And the NT3.5 kernel is the base for NT4. And the NT3.1 kernel is the base for NT3.51.

        And all of this has absolutely nothing to do with what I said. Regardless of what was based on what... ReactOS keeps changing their targets, and not getting anywhere.

        • Re:Just ignore it. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by unixisc (2429386) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @01:06PM (#45402217)
          I thought that the kernel changed b/w 7 & 8. Regardless, at this point, ReactOS can simply target XP for a win32 OS and 7 for a win64. No need to target 8. In the past, they may have targeted NT one time, 2000 another time and XP yet another. Now, they should just freeze 2 targets for XP & 7, and focus on just 2 deliverables.
          • by jonbryce (703250)

            It didn't change in a big way. Internally the version number went from 6.1 to 6.2, which does reflect the amount of change that took place under the hood.

        • by Myria (562655)

          ReactOS keeps changing their targets, and not getting anywhere.

          So does Windows itself, or any other evolving project.

    • Re:Just ignore it. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:22PM (#45401611) Homepage Journal

      Wine is in a far better state.

      You know that both projects share a lot of code, right? Wine is in a better state because it's solving a smaller problem, and everybody (including ReactOS) is focusing on that smaller problem.

      We may need ReactOS in the future for the same reason we need DosBox now. There is a huge amount of code that targets Win7 or lower, and won't be ported to the braindead, sorry, NEWER versions.

      • by evilviper (135110)

        We may need ReactOS in the future for the same reason we need DosBox now. There is a huge amount of code that targets Win7 or lower

        Wine will do that job just fine... You only need ReactOS if you *want* to use video/audio/chipset/etc. drivers written for Windows.

    • Good point, but this project, if successfully implemented, is more likely to catch on than the gazillion Linux distros out there, given that:

      • - One of its goals is to be compatible w/ the Windows device driver model
      • - No software needs to be specifically written for it - rather, its goal is to run standard win32 software
      • - Being open sourced, it would be a godsend for any number of companies stuck on Windows and not wanting to migrate to Windows 8

      Only thing I think - this project should have 2 parts -

      • by evilviper (135110)

        more likely to catch on than the gazillion Linux distros out there

        But is it more likely to catch-on than Android?

        The former should aim to be an FOSS XP, while the latter should aim to be an FOSS Windows 7. After all, Windows 7 loses some of its XP compatibility

        They're targeting XP. There was a 64-bit version of XP, too. Re-targeting Windows 7 is exactly the kind of thing I expect them to do, but is a horrific and pointless idea all-around.

        And you're still pretending this two-decades old project is going

        • by unixisc (2429386)

          Android is a different market altogether. Let's not pretend that it's gonna take over the desktop.

          For good enough, we're talking about markets that have critical mass. XP-64 never had critical mass. So only a win32 should be targeted @ XP. For win64, Windows 7 is where it's at, so any win64 projects should target Windows 7. We've all seen the market reaction to Windows 8, so this project would do fine by ignoring it altogether.

          A company that does this would be doing one of any number of ReactOS di

          • Re:Just complete it (Score:4, Interesting)

            by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @01:34PM (#45402605) Journal

            Android is a different market altogether. Let's not pretend that it's gonna take over the desktop.

            Android devices are already displacing a large number of desktops. There's little difference between a large tablet with a keyboard, and a desktop (or laptop, actually).

            With rather full-featured and mature browsers, office suites, printing support, and a vast array of available software, I fully expect Android to continue encroaching on desktop computer usage. There is NOTHING to prevent it from doing so, over time as legacy Windows apps (slowly) die off.

            any win64 projects should target Windows 7

            And what do you plan to use your open source Windows 7 clone OS for, two decades from now?

      • They've been working away for over 10 years without reaching beta and now you want them to do two different products at the same time?!

      • Simplify. Do just these two things in one product and you've got a winner.
    • Re:Just ignore it. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:27PM (#45401681) Homepage

      I don't know. I feel like it's an interesting project that deserves some attention. It'd be great if the project got some support and reached a usable state, but it seems like they're learning interesting things-- both about Windows itself, and about the process of trying to reverse-engineer a complex system. Personally, I'm willing to have an occasional /. story that isn't very relevant so long as it's interesting.

      Also, the potential value that WINE can't provide is if they can reach a level of running with good driver compatibility, i.e. if you have some old unsupported hardware with a Windows-only driver, there's the potential that you could use that driver and thereby still use the hardware. Sure, it's a very niche use, but I think it was part of the intention of the project.

    • by jdavidb (449077)

      I think it's cool and I still care, even if everybody else wants to ignore it. It may never get anywhere, but I like to know that it's going on and hear the status twice a year or so. Same for GNU Hurd, although I don't think I've heard much about them in at least five years.

      Also, while I'm sure Android is challenging Windows' dominance overall, it doesn't seem to be doing so on desktop machines in my office, so it's still a reality for me. I doubt ReactOS will be done in time to change that during my ca

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There's a BIG difference. Essentially an OS is a layer between applications and bare metal, so drivers are needed to run it on every piece of hardware. Linux started to take off when the hardware manofacturers took it seriously and started contributing drivers to it.
      ReactOS does not have this problem because all Windows drivers will eventually run natively on it.

  • Gotta hand it to the guy, he's got some tenacity.

    A spin-off of a previous attempt to clone Windows 95, development started in early 1998, and has continued with the incremental addition of features already found in Windows.*

    [*] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReactOS [wikipedia.org]

    • by jfdavis668 (1414919) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:03PM (#45401379)
      It took FreeDOS forever to get to version 1.0, and it is widely used to solve issues involving old hardware. Often used in systems which control machinery.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        It took FreeDOS forever to get to version 1.0,

        FreeDOS got to BETA releases in 4 years.

        ReactOS is still calling their code "alpha" after two decades, and even that's being too kind...

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        FD was also actually a viable replacement for *DOS long before the somewhat arbitrary 1.0 line was drawn. Last time i looked ReactOS really isn't usable except as something cool to play with.

        Don't misunderstand, i think its a great idea, but with out enough people behind it to make it go anywhere.

      • Or updating a Dell BIOS, *sigh*
  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:53AM (#45401269) Homepage

    reactos was the real reason why i ported samba-tng to w32, using mingw32 to compile it up. worked absolutely great. unfortunately you cannot effectively run samba-tng/w32 under windows (without changing the port numbers) because the ports 137, 138, 139 and 445 as well as the critical NamedPipe services are already occupied... by microsoft's implementation of SMB as well as microsoft's implementation of the critical MSRPC logon services (LSASS, NETLOGON and so on) without which it would be flat-out impossible to even log in to the box in order to see if the services were running!

    likewise unfortunately because wine has had to implement MSRPC (completely independently), although it would run successfully you likewise would have to change the MSRPC pipe service names as well as the TCP and UDP port numbers of the endpoint mapper (port 135) because wine has had to implement \PIPE\winreg, \PIPE\srvsvc and many others which are *also* implemented in samba-tng.

    the amount of cross-over between samba, wine and reactos at the core fundamental networking level (much of NT's design was based around networking and RPC services, even when run as a stand-alone system), is just crazy. especially when you consider that it takes about 250,000 lines of hard-core intensive c code just to get even the _fundamentals_ of MSRPC correct. it's been over twelve years so i've had to stop letting people know about the duplication of effort and just let them get on with spending their time learning the hard way that they're working on exactly the same thing... without sharing any effort between them.

    there's some absolute golden nuggets in amongst the wine/reactos code. periodically - every few years - i have a go at extracting the DCOM implementation from wine - to build a stand-alone GNU/Linux + w32 DCOM library. the last person who tried that called it "TangramCOM". he forgot to commit some critical bits to the repository (such as the IDL compiler). if anyone's ever worked with DCOM at a high level (using e.g. python) you'll know that it's just stunningly easy. DCOM was - still is - why microsoft has been so insanely successful after all this time. the equivalent in the MacOS world is ObjectiveC, which achieves similar results (without the networking) at the compiler-level which is pretty ambitious and nuts but highly effective all the same.

    ahh, what can you do, eh?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:59AM (#45401327)
    When Windows is used in the enterprise it's used generally because the stake holders buy into the commercial software model and have beliefs that systems backed by giant companies (be it Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, etc...) provide less risk. When a project ends up in flames at least they have a lifeline to call. Well, that is the perception. We know it doesn't really play out like that most of the time. If you're a stake holder in the other camp (lean start up, et al) then you're on an Linux based open source stack and taking advantage of the maturity of that open ecosystem. So I don't know where this would fit. I guess I could see Oracle or IBM funding it and trying to grow it to a point they could offer it as another option. Outside the enterprise Windows is just a walking dead OS.
    • by unixisc (2429386) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:38PM (#45401815)

      This is more of wishful thinking than anything else. Despite the fiasco over Windows 8, Linux is not taking over the market. People are just going for pirated Windows 7 wherever they can get them.

      If this project is completed, & reasonably bug free (comparable to Microsoft), then it would be far more successful than Linux. After all, you have a bonanza of both win32 apps from XP, and win64 apps from Windows 7. The project just has to accommodate both of these - currently, it's just targeting the former. Once it's done, PC vendors would preload their PCs w/ it, slap on any commercial software they can bundle w/ it, like say QuickBooks, and then sell it in the market. Or users would download & install it, and be off to the races. After all, just about all the commercial software out there (talking about laptops, not phones or tablets) are Windows.

      We have seen the success of Red Hat. Similarly, any company willing to hire developers to maintain a distro of this OS can do wonders. After all, most installations out there today are Windows, and anybody who doesn't want to be dragged kicking or screaming to Windows 8 or Server 2012 could, if this were available, go w/ it. Since it's FOSS, they have the option of hiring Windows devs and maintaining the OS in-house. Or, if there was a Red Hat like company doing this, they could get their OS & service from them. Such a company would not have to push their OS the way Red Hat would have to push Linux.

    • Not to sound too much like a Micro$oft fangirl, but the primary reason that Windows still dominates the enterprise sector in desktops and productivity is because Microsoft is about as good as predicting what businesses want as Apple is good at predicting what individuals want. The Outlook/Lync/Sharepoint integration is simply well executed, and I can't think of any combo of FOSS that can perform in a business environment in quite the same way. "Hey, so and so uploaded the wrong version of a file. He's ye
    • by Monsuco (998964)

      When Windows is used in the enterprise it's used generally because the stake holders buy into the commercial software model and have beliefs that systems backed by giant companies (be it Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, etc...) provide less risk. When a project ends up in flames at least they have a lifeline to call. Well, that is the perception. We know it doesn't really play out like that most of the time. If you're a stake holder in the other camp (lean start up, et al) then you're on an Linux based open source stack and taking advantage of the maturity of that open ecosystem. So I don't know where this would fit. I guess I could see Oracle or IBM funding it and trying to grow it to a point they could offer it as another option. Outside the enterprise Windows is just a walking dead OS.

      Windows is used in the enterprise because of Active Directory, Office, Exchange/Outlook and the very long product support lifecycles.

      Windows is used at home because it's what they use at work, it's what they've learned to use, it's what came with the computer, it has Microsoft Office and it has games & DirectX.

      For all the progress cloud based software, WINE, Libre Office, various Linux driver projects, et al have made and for all the dramatic improvements in Linux's usability, Windows is still the d

  • PDF available? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:32PM (#45401749)

    At 480p the text is kind of hard to read ...

    Interesting to see their testing methodology and how their massive code base broke a lot of build systems!

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