back to article ReactOS 0.4.9 release metes out stability and self-hosting, still looks like a '90s fever dream

Open-source Windows wannabe ReactOS took another tentative step towards usability with a 0.4.9 release aimed at stability and self-hosting. Tweaks in this version fix the FastFAT driver to stem resource leakages, which might hit IO performance, but makes up for it in improvements to stability. Self-hosting – the ability to …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    RINW10

    ReactOS is NOT Windows 10 and as such, it gets thumbs up IMHO.

    As long as they steer clear of anything with Tiles then I don't care about the UI looking a tad ancient.

    My fear is that if by some fluke this gets close to a proper V1.0 release that MS won't start putting 'hooks' into W10/Server/etc that would stop any software built for current Windows releases from running on ReactOS.

    They have form here remember this?

    "DOS Ain't Done Til Lotus Won't Run?"

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: RINW10

      "As long as they steer clear of anything with Tiles then I don't care about the UI looking a tad ancient."

      And to be honest, for most users, the difference between ReactOS GUI and WinXP or even Win7 is little more than cosmetic. All the same basic everyday functions are there. In fact the biggest problem I have with MS is they keep moving stuff around and changing the cosmetics for no obvious good reason, often taking everyday tasks an increasing the number steps to achieve them. The current vogue for dull, boring, flat cosmetics is degrading the user experience when it's hard to find clickable items or even the fecking scroll-bars!

      1. Jeff3171351982

        Re: RINW10

        "increasing the number steps to achieve them" So true! I used to click once to split a screen in Word. Now I have to go and type the word "split" into a box (sometimes, it remembers what I typed and there are 2 clicks). Of course, who knows, maybe there is a way to click just once, but its hidden.

      2. LewisRage

        Re: RINW10

        "moving stuff around [...] often taking everyday tasks an increasing the number steps to achieve them."

        worse, WORSE than that is dicking around with keyboard shortcuts.

    2. John Sanders
      Linux

      Re: RINW10

      >> They have form here remember this?

      >> "DOS Ain't Done Til Lotus Won't Run?"

      The north remembers!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My fear is that if by some fluke this gets close to a proper V1.0 release that MS won't start putting 'hooks' into W10/Server/etc that would stop any software built for current Windows releases from running on ReactOS.

    Ahhh, I remember the time when M$ tried to undercut OS/2 Warp with sneaky and creepsy trickses <gollum>

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Ahhh, I remember the time when M$ tried to undercut OS/2 Warp with sneaky and creepsy trickses <gollum>

      Win 3,11 wouldn't run on DR-DOS either

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I prefer that UI to many more modern UIs.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Buttons that look like buttons instead of having to discover that swiping three times widershins during a full moon is required to start some app.

      Buttons that distinctly change to tell you they are selected, rather than a pale blue-grey changing to a pale grey-blue.

      Borders you can actually click on rather than having to find the 1 pixel wide gap between ribbons that will move the window rather than expand some toolbar element to full screen

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        First thought on reading this was..

        "Widdershins is anticlockwise, Richard."

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Widdershins is anticlockwise, Richard.

          Depends whether you're looking from above or below.

          1. kventin
            Paris Hilton

            Depends whether you're looking from above or below.

            's like saying left depends on whether you're looking from or into the mirror.

            (Ms. Hilton, because confusion and mirrors and possibly also smoke?)

          2. Chloe Cresswell

            Well, I'll leave that sort of question to the Marquis de Carabas....

    2. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
      Windows

      Modern UI

      So ReactOS and LibreOffice look more like Windows and MS Office than the current Microsoft crop of crap.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Modern UI

        Article: "Last century called. They want their UI back, please"

        "This Century" can *KEEP* their 2D FLATSO FLUGLY Win-10-nic and Windows "Ape" *CRAP*!!!!

        _I_ _WANT_ _THE_ _RETRO_ _UI_!!! You know, 3D skeuomorphic, what basically *SOLD* everyone on windows in the FIRST place!!! (compared to windows 286/386 and so on, it was a HUGE improvement)

        So thanks, ReactOS, for not giving up. More o same, please. I would like to do my accounting stuff on YOUR OS instead of "what micro-shaft did to windows out of smug arrogance" (with forced updates and slurp and UWP and 'The Store' and that HORRIBLE 2D FLUGLY UI).

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. davemcwish

          Re: 3D skeuomorphic design

          @bombastic bob

          And lo Saint Jony of Ive came forth and looked at the form of the tablet. Unto all men and women he speaketh with a clear intent "Thy visual ornamentation displeases me greatly". And all responded with a single voice "Skeuomorphism is dead, praise be to flat UI"

    3. karlkarl Bronze badge

      Try out the UI

      An experiment. Install Windows 2000 and try to complete a relatively complex task whilst timing it. For example renaming a small music collection.

      Now try the same task with Windows 10 or Gnome 3 / KDE.

      Notice how the crispness of the "90's" UI at the very least facilitates a much more efficient working environment? Amazing huh ;)

      Also UI90 is better for reducing eyestrain from all the sloppy blur / fade effects.

      1. Roo
        Windows

        Re: Try out the UI

        ... or you can use Linux Mint with the effects switched off like I do... ;)

        I'd love the ReactOS folks to put some effort into Wine instead of rehashing NT 4.0 - but sadly they seem to have concluded that UNIX kernels are shit - despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I confess that I admire their faith, but I lament their judgement.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Try out the UI

          >> ... or you can use Linux Mint with the effects switched off like I do... ;)

          Upvote for that - the first thing to do on *any* UI is to find out how to turn off the time-wasting and distracting fades, slides, semi-transparencies, and other animation crap. Mint[0] makes this easy to do, for which kudos.

          Yesterday MS updated the work W7 machines, and removed the register setting that disables the creepy slidey cursor animations in outlook and its friends.

          [0] for complicated reasons I'm running Ubuntu with a Cinnamon desktop at present, and it keeps tripping me up where it's not quite like Mint, and rarely in a good way.

        2. tempemeaty

          Re: Try out the UI

          I think it's a benefit for the ReactOS team to built it. Dependence on a Linux Kernal for most things is close to having the only alternative to Windows being a kernal mono-culture. Mono-cultures can be dangerous in the long run.

          Just my two cents. ¯\_(シ)_/¯

          1. Joeyjoejojrshabado

            Re: Someone said "Mono-cultures can be dangerous in the long run."

            I agree. I'm never going to find cause to use it but it's good that there's more than a "single alternative"

        3. John Sanders
          Windows

          Re: Try out the UI

          >> but sadly they seem to have concluded that UNIX kernels are shit

          No, not at all, the reason for reimplementing a NT kernel is so you can use native Windows drivers on ReactOS.

      2. Jedipadawan

        Re: Try out the UI

        Hmm... Windows 10 is a monster and Gnome 3 - without vast numbers of extensions to turn it from a tablet UK to something usable on a desktop - is eye straining, finger clenching bad.

        But KDE is beautiful to use. Putting aside the vast amounts of keyboard short cuts you can customise to get stuff done, or the ability to make KDE work according to the way you work rather than vice versa... KDE's defaults are so sweet it's a joy to use.

        Rename files? Highlight, press 'F2.' Works for me! Right click still works as you would expect from Windows 9x days.

        KDE just rocks! :-)

        1. Chronos Silver badge

          Re: Try out the UI

          KDE just rocks! :-)

          Well, perhaps. It all depends what your needs are. All software sucks to varying degrees, without exception. Allow me to present Akonadi as exhibit A: A database backend for a PIM which either dies due to schema changes on point releases or never starts, about as far away from the Unix paradigms of "everything's a file" and "one job, done properly" as it is possible to be.

          At this point, I created my own "desktop" from Openbox, tint2, cairo-dock, tilda (you won't believe how useful a drop-down terminal is until you try one), some custom scripts and jiggery-pokery with Claws, Firefox, Libreoffice and Rainlendar2 for the productivity element. That was about eight years ago on FreeBSD¹ and the same desktop has followed my user data across several distros and is still running on Devuan today.

          The UI's job is to facilitate interaction with the OS and to stay the hell out of the way. Fancy effects, wobbly windows, disappearing window decorations or non-obvious window buttons are cute for about ten minutes, at which point you need to get some work done and they're just bloody annoying.

          ¹ The move away from FreeBSD when everyone else was either flocking to it or trying desperately to escape Lennart's monolithic blob was a sad but inevitable one, given the number of pet projects being rammed down our throats. Again, the OS is supposed to sit there abstracting hardware and presenting consistent APIs rather than acting like a needy relative with ADHD demanding attention every five seconds. When you're spending more time frigging about trying to get new shit to either work or stay out of the way than doing actual useful stuff, it's a good indication that it isn't an operating system any more.

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: Try out the UI

            Used to swear by Openbox -

            Tried it recently in a bout of nostalgia, surprised and annoyed to find extreme weird behaviour under Multi-monitor conditions.

            Dolphin FM kept leaping to the right, finally worked out it was being centred on the 3-screen real-estate, also while maximising, window would leap to the primary monitor.

            Enlightnement has lovely independent workspace action, it would a be a fav if not for the clunky window remember method and other weirdness that annoys after a while

            Gnomes workspaces on one screen only option kind of works for indpendent screens, but lack of window remembers and placement on a particular screen / workspace for a particular window class and only recently gettting close to window quarters puts it well back on my list.

            Plasma - excellent, apart from the use of the tired old netwm restriction of one desktop visible at a time.

            i3 is almost perfect, except sometimes you want better floating window support.

            Every desktop has it's flaws and good points, and this is something that becomes frankly hard to miss when you try to work with multi-monitors

            1. Chronos Silver badge

              Re: Try out the UI

              Tried it recently in a bout of nostalgia, surprised and annoyed to find extreme weird behaviour under Multi-monitor conditions.

              Ah yes, I hit this myself. The differences between twinview, xinerama and doing it the Old Way™ makes Openbox very twitchy. In the end, I had to configure xorg.conf with a bigger viewport and configured each monitor separately on workstations with more than one connected. Once done, it just works. Using xrandr in user autostart scripts also worked but it required me to write conditionals for each workstation with multi-monitor to set the primary and layout, which just duplicated stuff that should really be per-machine anyway.

              Yes, a slight amount of faff, yet you only have to do it once rather than every time a UI dev types a new line of code.

            2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

              Re: Try out the UI

              Did they ever get around to finishing Enlightenment?

        2. Anoraktrend

          Re: Try out the UI

          Except when kde's desktops crash on start up… every time. I use Mate or Budgie as my favored desktop.

      3. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Try out the UI

        Install Windows 2000 and try to complete a relatively complex task whilst timing it. For example renaming a small music collection. Now try the same task with Windows 10 or Gnome 3 / KDE.

        All about the same. Used command line and not some newfangled GUI thing.

      4. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Try out the UI

        "Also UI90 is better for reducing eyestrain from all the sloppy blur / fade effects."

        and eyestrain from the following:

        a) poor contrast colors (light blue on bright white - what idiot thought THAT up?)

        b) poor UI 'cues' for what is a button, etc.

        c) uber-thin window borders that make resizing difficult, if not impossible

        and the NAUSEA from the 2D FLATSO, in general

  4. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    ... clinging resolutely to your installation CDs of yesteryear.

    I wouldn't say clinging but recently, in searching through a box of old computer miscellany for some odd or end, I did run across install cds for OS/2 3.0, NT4, and Win98SE. Not what I was looking for so I just put them back and moved on to the next box.

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      I still have the 50+ disk FLOPPY install for Win95.

      Doubt if they still work, but I do still have a floppy drive in my spares box - just no mobo with a suitable port.

      1. Wolfclaw Silver badge

        Still have USB FDD in it's plastic wrapping, still has that fresh smell to it.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. herman Silver badge

        Doubt? The fecking floppies didn't work reliably in 1995, so I don't expect any of them to work now.

        1. defiler Silver badge

          The fecking floppies didn't work reliably in 1995

          Remember them well. DMF disks at 1.6MB. It got to the stage where we were quicker temp-fitting a CD drive and installing it from there. Still not the worst I've done - that was Wordperfect Office... Always used to break some time after disk 48. D-:<

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No metro UI

    So gets the thumbs up from me. I would rather run this than any of the turds that Microsoft has pushed out since Windows 7.

  6. pogul

    I eat fondue and wear cords, and as for the Windows 98 look - I like it!

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      I eat fondue and wear cords, and as for the Windows 98 look - I like it!

      If you also brewed your own vegetable wine, your ui of choice should be natures simplicity of a DEC PDP-10, as you'd be more 1970's and 1990's

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        A few years ago I went to Tesco and bought a load of carrots and a load of sugar.

        The checkout girl said "Are you making carrot wine?"

        I was, it was awful, but what an odd assumption.

  7. alain williams Silver badge

    This could be a hit in the NHS ...

    or other places that have (embedded) kit running ancient versions of MS Windows - which, apparently, was the worry about the wannacry outbreak.

    I don't know if they could make something that supports the Windows XP ABI; presumably - but when?

    If they can then support it - they might have a viable business supporting free s/ware, much as does RedHat. OK: embedded kit vendors will still have to jump through certification hoops - but it might be cheaper than porting their stuff to the latest MS Windows, with the new hardware requirements. They will also get the added benefit of no spy-ware (sorry: telemetry, I'll get that right one day).

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: This could be a hit in the NHS ...

      The scanners and instruments are probably "qualified" to run on a certain OS (ie Windows XP etc) and to move to this would invalidate the support.

      1. Adrian Midgley 1

        Re: This could be a hit in the NHS ...

        Assuming there is support.

    2. defiler Silver badge

      Re: This could be a hit in the NHS ...

      The problem that I see with that is that somebody needs to stay on top of the ongoing security patches and stuff. It's a big enough job for Microsoft - I can see it being overwhelming for a small team. If somebody as big as the NHS adopted it then it would no longer be an obscure target.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This could be a hit in the NHS ...

      If they can then support it - they might have a viable business supporting free s/ware, much as does RedHat.

      I'm affraid all IT qualified people in NHS have left and Microsoft are guarding their business fiercly.

      When I left few years ago the cost of the licenses for one desktop was nearly twice as much as the hardware itself. And the server licenses.. WHOAAAAAA. Gold mine.

  8. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Malware

    If this is sufficiently different from Windows to not fall victim to modern viruses and trojans I can see a great future for it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last time I looked it was lacking virtual network drivers

    Which is a shame. Because having something that is licence free to install random "windows only" software on would be nice.

    1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

      Re: Last time I looked it was lacking virtual network drivers

      The Register had a crack at firing up ReactOS in a virtual machine and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found, after playing a short game of "hunt the driver" to get the thing talking to Hyper-V's network adapter.

      I really wondered about what you have mentioned and about what the authors said in the quote above. Should you have tried VirtualBox (what's used by the ROS team for testing) instead of Hyper-V, the PCnet-III card works OOB. Why use Hyper-V?

      1. Mark 110 Silver badge

        Re: Last time I looked it was lacking virtual network drivers

        Why use Hyper-V?

        Presumably there was a choice between installing Virtualbox or finding the driver and the latter was chosen . . .

    2. Jeditobe
      Holmes

      Re: Last time I looked it was lacking virtual network drivers

      Which one Virtual Machine did you use?

      ReactOS has embedded network drivers for Virtual Box, VM Ware, QEMU. You just need to select the proper card in the settings of a virtual machine.

  10. ThatOne Silver badge
    Happy

    Does it run old Windows games? That is the important question (for me)...

    I'm looking for something more hassle-free than Wine (on which stuff runs often slower than on native Windows XP/7) for running older games I still play.

    I'll keep an eye on it, although its glacier-like pace does worry me a little. I might not be there anymore when it reaches beta...

    1. Jeditobe

      yes, ReactOS is capable to run old games

  11. john.jones.name

    drivers drivers drivers

    if they can actually make it possible to load legitimate (yet old) drivers combined with modern virtualisation drivers then they are onto a winner

    there is a lot of code / programs that still work on windows NT and would pay HUGE sums to maintain those app's rather than pay third party dev's to maintain/update

    just take a look at mainframe support contracts - offering support starting at 10k on virtualbox / vmware / hyperV would be interesting !

    1. _LC_

      Re: drivers drivers drivers

      I agree. If they could reach a level of compatibility, which would allow you to continue using old hardware with the original drivers, that would put them into the spotlight. Then again, I'm not too optimistic. Reaching "that level of compatibility" is by far the hardest. I expect everything else to be working before one could even think of reusing an old printer via ReactOS.

  12. The Unexpected Bill
    Happy

    Old fashioned user interface?

    I'll get to that in a moment. I've been tinkering with ReactOS since first hearing of it in the early 2000s. Whatever version I first worked with came with little more than a notepad program (maybe also a calculator?) and it lacked any kind of a shell. The control menu icon gave away the fact that a lot of Wine's code was in use at time, since it displayed their logo. It has come a very long way since then. I hope it will reach the point where I could realistically use it as a day to day operating system.

    Truth be told, I'd love to see a truly simple and clean user interface (especially one that doesn't waste prodigious amounts of screen real estate) stage a comeback. I couldn't care less about Windows Aero, find ribbons to be particularly pernicious and don't appreciate the arbitrary changes in well established user interface (like menu bars going below toolbars and unable to be moved).

    Good design is timeless, and I completely disagree that the visual design of ReactOS is dated or stale.

    1. Wisteela

      Re: Old fashioned user interface?

      Hear here!

  13. Updraft102 Silver badge

    "Last century called. They want their UI back, please"

    I'm gonna have to say no, last century. You can't have it back. How about a nice, shiny, "stylish" flat UI? We have far more of those than we want here in the 21st century. Take 'em all, if you want!

    The snarky comments and cheap shots about the "dated" interface demonstrate that the author of the piece has fallen into the trap of thinking that a UI is meant to be pretty and stylish, not functional and useful. That's the kind of thinking that has gotten us to the place we're in now, where UIs are unintuitive, lacking information scent, wasteful of screen resources with excessive white space, and more difficult to figure out and use than they were 20 years ago, with a lot more searching around and drilling down through menus than should be required. Aren't things in tech supposed to get better over time, not worse?

    Back in the Windows 95 days, MS put a great deal of effort into getting the UI just right, with lots of testing with users with varying degrees of familiarity with PCs at every stage. Windows 95 was truly a quantum leap in UI excellence over Windows 3.1 because of all of that testing, and you know what? People haven't changed in the 23 years since then. Evolution doesn't happen in one generation! We, as a species, still process what our eyes tell our brains in the same way we did in the 90s. We're still a species that has spent most of its existence interacting with three-dimensional objects in space, and our brains are hardwired to be able to process cues to that effect quickly and accurately. In the past, it meant the difference between understanding that a threat was very close or a little more distant... the difference between living and dying, sometimes.

    UI design reflected that observation until very recently. We've heard the rationalizations about how everyone's familiar with GUIs now, so we don't need the skeuomorphic "training wheels" anymore, but that's flat wrong. Skeuomorphic UIs were never about being training wheels. They were about providing data about what actions are possible in a way that humans are hardwired to understand intuitively. Flat interfaces require more cognitive effort, and it takes more time to look through the options and remember what means what purely by rote, with no cues given from the UI itself. You might say that our processing of skeuomorphic UIs is hardware-accelerated in our brains, while flat UIs are strictly rendered in software, which takes more time and distracts us from the task at hand (as timeslicing is ever more difficult for a biological brain than it is for an electronic one).

    To this day, I consider the Windows 2000 UI to be the gold standard as far as UI design goes. Windows 2000 looks, of course, exactly like those images that the author Richard Speed chortles and guffaws over. To each his own, of course, but that was arguably the best UI ever designed by Microsoft, and I've yet to see one outside of Microsoft that tops it. It's part of why Windows XP was so popular... many of us immediately switched to Classic the moment we installed XP on any PC. I just went into the services and disabled the theme service.

    I seldom use Windows anymore, for obvious reasons. If Windows 10 is the future of Windows, then Windows has no future with me. In the increasingly rare instances when I do use Windows, I use 8.1 with a Classic-type skeuomorphic theme that (by design) looks very much like the ReactOS one (and it would look even more like it if not for the technical limitations of the built-in Windows theme engine). It's taken many hours of my time to learn how to edit and create Windows .msstyles themes, then actually to do it, but eradicating the hideous flatness (and the white backgrounds on everything) was critical if I was to keep using Windows-- which, as it turns out, I'm not.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: "Last century called. They want their UI back, please"

      Hammers never went "last millenium" let alone century. I don't see anyone trying to change their "interface". Handle, and a lump. Done.

      So many thumbs up for the GUI too!

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: "Last century called. They want their UI back, please"

        Because no hammer ever had a moulded grip or used different materials to improve comfort or control. And how many 'lump' shapes and materials are out there? Each change and modification designed to improve the user experience for hammer lovers everywhere.

        Interaction design is a fascinating and complex subject. You should try reading about it some time. ;)

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: Def

          Design can be good and bad. GUI gravitates from the good to the bad, because a LOT of it was correct first time... so what do the "marketing" or "design" staff or "managers" do to prove their worth? Twiddle, twiddle twiddle until it falls apart:

          https://i.pinimg.com/736x/18/2a/65/182a65f5821b19f1be45eeea1c524a53--gag-funny-funny-jokes.jpg

          1. Def Silver badge

            Re: Def

            GUI gravitates from the good to the bad, because a LOT of it was correct first time...

            You have no idea how wrong that statement is. :) I don't think I've ever seen an application that gets it right first time around. (And I'm sure you haven't either.) Even my personal software projects have undergone multiple iterations of UI design and improvements as I learn more about what does and doesn't work, and get a better understanding of how users are using my products.

            Interaction design is an area that greatly interests me and I like to think I understand its principles more than the average developer. (Well, at least better than a lot of other sole developers out there. I'm no designer by any means, but I do try and put some thought into the visual designs of my applications and games.)

            If you're interested, I highly recommend the book Designing Visual Interfaces by Mullet and Sano. It gives an excellent introduction to basic interaction design principles with great examples of both good and bad design from GUIs to posters and subway maps to every day objects.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: "Last century called. They want their UI back, please"

        "The snarky comments and cheap shots about the "dated" interface demonstrate that the author of the piece has fallen into the trap of thinking that a UI is meant to be pretty and stylish, not functional and useful."

        yeah but the Win-10-nic and "Ape" "The Metro" and "UWP" interface is anything *BUT* 'pretty' nor 'stylish'.

        It's more like what Micro-shaft arrogant+smug "developers" decided to SHOVE INTO OUR COMPUTERS without permission. Because it's "modern". And we're LUDDITES for *HATING* it.

        nothing 'pretty' nor 'stylish' about THAT. It's more like 'the few' imposing their will onto 'the many'.

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: "Last century called. They want their UI back, please"

          And we're LUDDITES for *HATING* it.

          Well that and Win-10-nic and Micro-shaft, and RANDOM caps USAGE. ;)

        2. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: "Last century called. They want their UI back, please"

          yeah but the Win-10-nic and "Ape" "The Metro" and "UWP" interface is anything *BUT* 'pretty' nor 'stylish'.

          I agree completely, but that's still the reason they're doing it. They think it's stylish or pretty, so in it goes. I actually use computers, so to me, function is beauty, and therefore the flat look of Windows 10 is horrendously ugly. I can't separate aesthetics from function in my mind... they're inextricably bound together. Functional efficiency is beautiful, wasted space and giant controls that look like abstract line art are not.

    2. Wisteela

      Re: "Last century called. They want their UI back, please"

      I'm totally with you. It's not progress if things get worse, and they have. The Windows 10 UI is a piece of crap.

  14. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

    This is, unfortunately, one of the times I really bitterly disagree with the whole article!

    Unlike a typical El Reg feature, this seems to be one-sided for no good reason, nor it portrays the whole picture.

    Let me list my objections:

    1. From the article:

    While time and Microsoft have marched on in the intervening years, ReactOS still bears more than a passing resemblance to Windows 9x or NT 4, making one of the project goals – "ReactOS looks and feels like Windows" – a tad inaccurate, unless you are still clinging resolutely to your installation CDs of yesteryear.

    The project goal is still as is. ReactOS indeed feels like Windows (yeah, even modern Windows). The underlying design (for example, you have the basic WM, and the Explorer shell, a Start menu, …) and are all Windows. The core (I don't mean the kernel here, I mean the OS's core as a whole) is Windows. Perhaps call it "Windows Bare Essentials"?

    And how is it any less Windows than, say, Windows Server 2003, upon which it is designed?

    However, it certainly doesn't look like Windows 10. Yeah, because all that is cruft is added to the "base" Windows, and doesn't constitute Windows as a whole.

    2. You failed to mention that ROS supports Windows XP themes since ReactOS 0.4.6, while mentioning this:

    If you absolutely must have that old Windows shell look

    .

    This is nothing that can't be rectified with a XP.msstyles theme + a custom 3D shell if you absolutely must have 3D eye-candy (for the Average Joes).

    In the meanwhile (taking into consideration the incomplete-for-prime-time-as-always state of ROS), you have this:https://www.betaarchive.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15766, a shell written in C++ by an Italian dev who goes by the name Dax, and copies the XP look.

    3. You tried it on Hyper-V. Had you tried it on VirtualBox (as the ROS team recommends: https://reactos.org/installing-reactos), you would have OOB networking support via the PCnet-III adapter.

    4. From the article:

    Familiar to users who have spent the last 15 years or so in cryogenic suspension.

    You failed to explain this, and this is an unfairly exaggerated statement.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      The last ten years has been a lost decade in terms of Windows UIs, so the correct answer against the charge that ReactOS' UI is 15 years old is 'meh'.

      It can do 2000/XP, I'm sure they'll get round to a Vista/7 look some time, I'm also sure that they'll stop there.

  15. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    Wonder how it would handle older games that W7/W8/W10 just refuse to look at ?

    1. tony2heads

      @Wolfclaw

      Download it and try it out on an old machine

    2. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

      Provided that the display subsystem under ReactOS handles them, you could play them. Doesn't hurt to try on a VM, does it?

      If the game needs is complex and needs obscure DirectX features, chances are that it won't work.

      But you're better off looking at DOSBox (for the DOS-Win9x era) or a virtual machine running something like MicroXP (a 40-MB XP created especially for gaming and runs on as little as 32MB of RAM) (disclaimer: cut the VM off the Internet if you go this route).

      Edit: There's also this: https://www.play-old-pc-games.com/compatibility-tools/dgvoodoo-tutorial/

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Slight aside

        I recently tried getting RedHat 4.1 (that's RedHat, not RHEL or Fedora) from a PCW cover disk from something like 1997 running in VirtualBox.

        It was quite a frustrating experience, because although the install worked OKish (once I'd sorted out how to run the loader program running without a floppy disk drive, and then access the CD from the loader program - bootable CDs and ATAPI was still in the future back then), trying to get XFree86 working was difficult.

        Back in the day, graphics and mouse support was much less standardized on PCs, and the version of XFree86 needs to be told a lot about the graphics adapter hardware. The autoprobe cannot identify the VirtualBox display adapter from it's ancient database of cards that it knows about (just an example, when I originally used this as my main Linux distro, I had an ATI Mach64 card which worked quite well).

        I had minor success setting it up as a dumb SVGA adapter with no hardware assists, but I also had problems with the mouse as presented by VirtualBox. And I did not get around to attempting to get the sound working (I used to use a ISA SoundBlaster 16 which I did get working with OSS, I think). I don't know what the VirtualBox sound adapter looks like.

        Even though the virtual machine was running on my 2nd gen Core 2 Duo Thinkpad (not a stellar performer by today's standards, but a couple orders of magnitude faster than the machine I first ran it on), because there was no hardware assist from the graphics adapter, the screen handling was sloooooow compared to when I used it on a Pentium 100 with the Mach64.

        I wish I could get it running better, because I would love to be able to show people how simple the GUI looked on old UNIX/Linux systems (I know, I could run fvwm2 on Ubuntu, but it would be so much more authentic on an ancient Linux).

  16. DropBear Silver badge

    That interface looks many orders of magnitude better to me than anything offered currently, be it waving flag- or penguin-branded (not even MATE is escaping Gtk3-inflicted "improvements" not to mention notifications are still broken - for years now - even on the latest Mint). Linux distros and wine are unapologetic about not actually being windows, and whenever that matters you're left out in the cold - which is exactly what ReactOS is attempting to fix. The glacial pace is truly regrettable but other than that this was the worst possible place to break out the can bucket tank truck oil tanker of snark.

  17. TiddlyPom

    Use case for ReactOS

    As somebody who has used Linux as my primary desktop for over a decade now (maybe longer), my own situation is that I cannot see a reason for using Windows at all in any incarnation (whether that be Windows 10 (I use Linux Mint Cinnamon), WIndows Server 2016 (I use Zentyal) or a clone like ReactOS. I am a heavy development user and I play games as well (Steam) so Linux covers all the bases as far as I am concerned. I am even starting 3D graphics (Blender and MakeHuman) so Adobe Maya - I don't think so!

    The problem is that there are no PCs with a good and modern Linux desktop to buy for the average punter. Yes you CAN buy a Dell XPS or System 76 if you are in the know but I am talking about the average Joe or Jane here. If there was a well specced laptop available with Linux Mint or Ubuntu sold by PCWorld, Argos, Tesco and more importantly there was a good explanation as to why Linux had some advantages then I think it would sell in droves. I like Fedora as well but it would have to be LTS for the average person to cope with it. But there aren't any Linux PCs sold on the high street because - Microsoft and bribery.

    ReactOS is a niche operating system for cases where there are legacy programs that need to run and money to be saved by not increasing the Bill Gates retirement fund.

    1. CheesyTheClown

      Re: Use case for ReactOS

      I'll start with... because "Some of us like it" and don't really mind paying a few bucks for it.

      I also am a heavy development user. And although I am really perfectly happy with vi most of the time, I much prefer Visual Studio. I actually just wrote a Linux kernel module using Visual Studio 2017 and Windows Subsystem for Linux for the most part. Which is really funny since WSL doesn't use the Linux kernel.

      There are simply some of us who like to have Windows running on their systems. Even if I were using Linux as the host OS, I would still do most of my work in virtual machines for organizational reasons and frankly, WSL on Windows is just a thing of beauty.

      As for more modern UIs like many people complain about here. I honestly haven't noticed. You press the Windows key and type what you want to start and it works. This has been true since Windows 7 and has only gotten better over time.

      Then there's virtualization. Hyper-V is a paravirtualization engine which is frigging spectacular. With the latest release of QEMU which is accelerated on Windows now (like kqemu) you can run anything and everything beautifully.

      I have no issues with the software you run... I believe if you sat coding next to me, you'd probably see as many cool new things as I'd see sitting next to you. But honestly, I've never found a computer which runs Linux desktop with even mediocre performance. They're generally just too slow for me. So, I use Windows which is ridiculously fast instead.

      As for Bill Gates. Are you aware that Bill has more or less sold out of Microsoft? He's down to little more than 1% of the company. You can give Microsoft gobs of money and he would never really notice. Take it a little further and you might realize that this isn't the Bill Gates of the 1980s. He's grown up and now is a pretty darn good fella. So far as I can tell, since he's been married, he's evolved into one of the most amazingly nice people on earth. I can't see that he's done anything in the past 15-20 years which would actually justify a dislike of him or a distrust of his motives.... unless you're Donald Trump who Bill kind of attacked recently for speaking a little too affectionately about Bill's daughter's appearance.

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Use case for ReactOS

      The problem is that there are no PCs with a good and modern Linux desktop to buy for the average punter.

      Can't always blame the companies who actually want to sell stuff here, when even Dixons/Currys/PC World staff are giving an almost anti-sales talk to potential ChromeOS purchasers due to frequent returns due to it not being Windows/working like windows.

      Without a commercial entity backing it up, 'Linux doesn't need that kind of quantity sales push.

  18. JDX Gold badge

    anyone who has ... to avoid Redmond's ... unlikely to be shovelling Word or Excel on

    > let's face it, anyone who has gone to such lengths to avoid Redmond's wares is unlikely to be shovelling Word or Excel on to their pristine, and slurp-free, open-source installation.

    Really? Surely the whole point of wanting Windows over another OS is to run the Windows applications you can't run on Linux? Otherwise you might as well just get Linux with a windows-esque GUI?

  19. clocKwize

    I just installed this in a VM. I'm impressed for several reasons.

    1. It works, it works really well

    2. The sheer amount of effort involved to do this is astronomical

    3. They didn't give up in 22 years. Its basically redundant before its reached beta. There might be some uses for it, I guess. I liked windows 2000 more than I like anything released after, but there is no mass market for going back to it.

    My hat tips in the direction of the developers who have worked on this. Its a massive achievement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Superposition upvote?

      I want to upvote. But then you said you liked Windows 2000. I guess it was not WindowsME, so I can then give you one!

  20. J27 Bronze badge

    Shell is probably the easiest problem to fix

    I've used ReactOS in the past and I can honestly say that the biggest issues were compatibility and stability. If both of those were solved to a 99% level then there would be time to work on the shell (maybe that's the case now, I'll have to check). It's a gigantic project and there isn't a lot of money behind it, both because of the possible legal threat from Microsoft and the lack of commercial need (because Windows exists and is not prohibitively expensive for most businesses).

    The other option of course is for someone to create a drop-in shell for ReactOS, which would be a lot less complicated than creating the whole project. I suppose multiple competing projects would be ideal.

  21. cat_mara

    Better a 90s fever dream...

    ... than a UI that looks like a whiteboard mockup pressed into use. TIFKAM is cargo-cult UI at its worst. When it was announced, Microsoft made a big song-and-dance about how much they were inspired by Adrian Fruitiger's signage for Charles de Gaulle airport (to the point where Linotype threatened to sue them over alleged similarities between their Fruitiger typeface and Segoe; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segoe#Licensing_controversy), but what on Earth has a design for low-information-density signage seen from a distance got to do with high-information-density screens seen from up close?! TIFKAM is a low-information-density design language, a design language for managers used to seeing things on presentations and "dashboards", not for (God help me) information workers. It's the politician's syllogism as Seagull Manager's Syllogism (looking at you, Sinofsky, you demented slaphead): the Windows look & feel is dated so we need to do something; TIFKAM is something; we will do TIFKAM.

    (Disclaimer: I may still have a paper copy of the "The Windows Interface Guidelines For Software Design: Covers Windows 95 And Windows NT 4!" on my bookshelf. It's a wonderful bit of software archaeology that I think was available at some point for download from the Microsoft web site)

  22. Mage Silver badge

    – "ReactOS looks and feels like Windows" –

    – "ReactOS looks and feels like Windows" used to look like, and still should for productivity and ease of use.

    Sadly this is 5 to 10 years too late.

    I did briefly look at it when the rolling disaster of Win10 finally went "live".

  23. wayward4now
    Linux

    Remember Wabi??

    Why not do what Wabi did years ago, and let you install REAL Windows on top of Linux??

    https://www.linuxjournal.com/article/2076

  24. emblemparade

    The conclusion totally misses the point of ReactOS. Sure, we don't need a free Windows clone for home computing, but there are so many industries that have a huge investment in Windows-based solutions. Think of factory controllers, management platforms, enterprise applications, etc. An open Windows would be a godsend, allowing them to keep their applications maintained while also, finally, having some control over the operating system itself.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Problem is, many of those machines have contractually-obligated OS versions attached to their service agreements. Change them, lose the service contract (see the whole NHS old Windows debate--the only legal way to replace the OS is to replace the machine--a six- or seven-figure outlay). What good is an alternative OS if you're not allowed to use an alternative?

  25. Milton Silver badge

    Win10's horrible interface

    Several people have remarked on how unpleasantly backward the Win10 interface is. I don't use W10 unless required by my work. Have had a W7 Ultimate setup on my ridiculously powerful personal desktop for years now, and when support is terminated I'll move over to Linux, which I know pretty well from server use. (I'm down to just one application that absolutely requires Windows, the excellent Paint.Net, and will have to transition to Gimp.) I'm not a gamer: the horsepower was bought for molecular modelling, math, stats and later on, crypto stuff.

    I admit I will regret it, a little—W7 runs beautifully and is arguably MS's supreme achievement in UI—but even if I weren't deterred by Microsoft's spyware, why on earth would I want to become the victim of an ugly flat tiled touchscreen-y interface, apparently designed for a tablet, when I'm using half a dozen major applications plus browser sessions on a 5 GHz 8-core 32 Gb system across three screens totalling 18.6 Mpxl of display?

    I'd happily pay for a W10 where I could choose a W7-style interface and switch off the spyware. But that's not gonna happen, and I wonder: am I a rare specimen, or are there, perhaps, a lot of people who'll be off to Linux, abandoning Windows for the last time, in a year or two?

    I'll pop back in a while to receive feedback on whether I'm an outlier dinosaur as well as visiting curmudgeon ... ;-)

    AMD, in case you're wondering

  26. Wisteela
    Happy

    Excellent

    Now might be the right time to finally try this out on some of my old hardware. It will be great for that retro vibe. Also, I like this old school UI. I'd much prefer it to the rather bloody awful Windows 10 mess.

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