Sunday, April 10, 2005
Back in 1991, Linus Torvalds decided to try and make a free Open Source clone of the UNIX operating system. UNIX was a very advanced, stable, efficient and fairly expensive OS that was particulary popular in company networks for use on (web)servers. He named his clone Linux, and after 14 years of development Linux has become the second most popular operating system in the world and has made UNIX completely redundant. However, the most popular OS still is Windows. You might wonder: If Linux is so stable, efficient and, most of all, free, then why isn't everybody switching to Linux? Well, there are two primary reasons: First of all, Linux has the reputation of not being very user-friendly. Though in fact some Linux distributions, like Xandros, actually are more user-friendly then Windows. The second and most important reason is the compatability-issue. Not all of the programs that you use on Windows will run on Linux. Though there is plenty of free Open Source software, written for Linux, that can replace most office utilities (like OpenOffice - wich is also available for Windows, give it a try), games and commercial Windows-only software can give some problems. Especially DirectX-based games (wich means most of them) can give Linux gamers a hard time. The problem is that, since Linux has a completely different kernel, you need to use some special open source software (called Wine - www.winehq.org) to launch Windows programs. Though Wine is making tremendous progress, it will never be able to ensure 100% compatability with Windows... You'll never be able to just download any program from Download.com and be sure it will work on your Linux system. For me personally, the 4 reasons that made me turn back to Windows XP, after trying out Linux for 6 months, are: Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004, Microsoft Frontpage 2003, Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 and MSN Messenger 7.0. None of these programs will even launch on Linux using Wine. So I wondered, "Why hasn't anyone decided to make a clone of Windows then? Just like Torvalds did with UNIX?". I started Googling a bit and found ReactOS. ReactOS is a free, open source clone of Windows NT, licensed under the General Public License. The only problem: It's really not quite done yet. Though it allready has a Windows-like GUI, and most of the Windows kernel code has been cloned pretty well, it still needs a lot of fixing, patching and hacking untill it's done. Thought the current Beta version 0.2.6 that was released just today allready runs a handfull of comercial software like mIRC and allready features some basic TCP/IP support. It even runs a few OpenGL-based games like Unreal Tournament. And since it's a pure clone of Windows it has the chance to offer 100% compatability some day. Okay, it still has a long way to go to become a usefull replacement for Windows. But as soon as ReactOS resolves it's compatability issues and offers better configuration tools then Microsoft might as well start to worry.