ReactOS: a free Windows?

As a big GNU/Linux fan, I’m always checking up on the latest open source projects. I found that a group of folks is developing a free ‘Windows’ OS (not an emulated Windows on Linux like Wine) that will allow folks to install and run software written for MS Windows in a free OS environment that looks and feels just like Windows.

ReactOS is only at version 0.3 (I realize that decimal release number doesn’t exactly inspire much consumer confidence), but it looks quite promising. There has been some banter back and forth between the folks working on this project and others in the open source movement who feel that their time would be better spent on GNU/Linux, but I’m all for it.

The thing I hate the most about Microsoft is their licensing. To say the least it’s onerous. Frankly, I don’t mind paying for their OS since I use it at work, but jeez – make it easier. …and make it cheaper! For crying out loud, folks figured out how to make an operating system for the x86 platform almost 30 years ago, do we still have to pay through the nose for it? The worst part about it is that it’s only been the last release of Windows that is even on par with the free offerings. Folks don’t know this of course, because Windows is all they know about, but hey – I was using a ‘windowed’ OS years before Microsoft figured out it might be a good idea.

Apple has it (more) right – at least part of their OS is open sourced so folks can poke around and play with it, and when they sell it to you it’s one friggin’ price, done. And they don’t force you to call them to ‘authenticate’ you when your hard drive dies and you need to reinstall it. That alone is enough to make me never use a Microsoft product again (at least at home). That annoying automated telephone voice coaxing you to speak the damn zillion-digit code into the phone… “ok, almost done…”, “…and the next set?”, “good, and the next?” only to be transferred to somebody in India and have to repeat the whole thing again anyway. Arrgh.

Though I love my powerbook, I will probably be buying a PC again next time. I miss running GNU/Linux at home (I still run it for various jobs at work), and the new AMD 64 is calling. With proper partitioning, I’ll be able to check out ReactOS too – though by then I hope they’re at a more respectable release version πŸ™‚