Three months after the previous release, the ReactOS Team has released version 0.3.8 of their Windows NT-compatible operating system. We have taken a short virtual look at this new release. In addition, the project will have a booth at the FOSDEM event in Brussels, Belgium on the 7th and 8th February. Several members of ReactOS Development Team along with the Project Coordinator will be attending. You can have a chance to test the live system, speak with developers, and get a closer look at their project.
The major changes of ReactOS 0.3.8 include:
- Various bugfixes and enhancements to Kernel core services (e.g. registry, system information routines, sync primitives like guarded mutex, IO support and other)
- An initiative has been started to fix the remaining unstable parts of the kernel: Memory Manager, caching code and filesystems driver APIs and other dependencies of Mm
- Introduction of a new Portable Structured Exception Handling mechanism (PSEH 2.0), which is much closer to the native compiler SEH syntax
- A few longstanding bugs are fixed (such as multipartition HDD support by LiveCD, Task Manager CPU graph)
- Various GDI drawing problems were fixed
- A minimal open source version of the KernelDebugger protocol has been implemented, allowing basic MS WinDbg functionality
- CRT and RTL library improvements
- A number of problems were fixed in base system drivers: NPFS, CDFS, FASTFAT, FS_REC, SCSIPORT
- Video driver improvements for better real hardware support
- Ongoing Win32-subsystem work
Rough, but promising
Giving ReactOS a go isn’t hard, as the team provides ready-made virtual machines for use in VMware or Qemu. I downloaded the new release for a quick test drive through VMware, and I was impressed with what I saw. The system boots very quickly, and apart from the use of the Tango icon set, it looks exactly like Windows Classic. There additions as well, of course, such as virtual desktop support.
ReactOS comes with an application called Download!, a sort of crude package manager that lists a number of Windows applications known to work with ReactOS. It can download and install them for you. Installing Firefox 2.x is a breeze this way, and seeing it all run so well is an odd experience.
Still, there are many rough edges. In my short use I experienced a few crashes, and a lot of screen remnants. The biggest problem, however, is the extremely unreliable and slow net connection; I’m not sure if I should blame Firefox, ReactOS, the WMware network driver, or VMware itself.
Still, ReactOS is an interesting project, and even though I find it highly unlikely it will ever reach its stated goal, that what they have already achieved is mind-blowing.