Reacting to @ReactOS

I decided to have a play with ReactOS.

ReactOS is a free open-source operating system built from the ground up.  It is an attempt to be a legal, community-driven Windows replacement. The current version (0.4.7) is in Alpha, so don't expect everything to work as expected.

ReactOS desktop in Virtual Box looking very Windows NT-like

Getting started

First, you will need to download the ReactOS ISO file which you can get from the ReactOS website.

Secondly, you will want to run your copy of ReactOS in a virtual machine. I choose to use Virtual Box.

Please note that I could not get my version of ReactOS to connect to my home internet under Virtual Box, however, I downloaded one of the Nightly versions (0.4.9-dev) and this fixed the problem. Maybe it will for you too, but I recommend that you try one of the stable releases first.

First impressions

Yay! ReactOS looks and feels like an early version of Windows, somewhere around Windows-ME era but with modern OS features. One of the first things you will want to do is to install a browser. New applications can be installed from the built-in 'Applications Manager'.

Although I managed to get (an older version of) Firefox working, it often hangs the machine or crashes making it almost unworkable. I might try an alternative solution to this in the near future, but for now, it may influence whether I continue to with this experiment.

One of many problems I am having with Firefox under ReactOS. Incidentally, this is one of my favourite error messages. It is up there with 'silly' on the BBC micro (try AUTO 10,0 for that one) and the Amiga's Guru Meditation.

Another thing that I am having difficulty with is in creating new user accounts. The system wants me to log into the 'Administrator' account, and although it lets me create other user accounts, it does not give me the option of logging into them when the machine first starts. I guess that this feature has not yet been built yet.

Stuff that works

There are plenty of open-source apps available from the application manager that will allow your version of ReactOS to behave like a useful machine. I have tried the following with some success:

Python 3.4
Yup. Python works, look!

Notepad ++
Probably the best light-weight open-source text editor for general purpose computing.

I've managed to get Audacity, VLC player and WinAmp running but not without problems with audio devices on the virtual machine. So that's the most important part of the software not working then...

Open Office
It is no surprise that there is an open-source office suite for ReactOS. I have tried most of this and found it to be working well.

Some old favourites
There are a few applications that come bundled with ReactOS, with most of them being no surprise: Calculator, Notepad, Wordpad and Paint being the most notable. Oh yes, and there's minesweeper and solitaire for the full retro experience.

I think that it is a shame that there is no 'card file', but then again, I don't think that was ever in the Windows NT OS, so my complaint is rather moot.

Final Remarks
Well, it has certainly been a fun experiment. Enough of this Alpha version of ReactOS works well enough to be useful and I will look forward to future developments.

If you have found this post interesting, then you might like to watch this video from 'explaining computers dot com'. It goes into much more detail about how to get started as well as some other trouble-shooting hints and a successful attempt to install an old version of Photoshop. +1 Geek Experience point awarded to Explaining Computers.

If you are staying with us, then you might like to read about installing Ubuntu on a virtual machine, or perhaps you are more interested in another Operating System instead.