Drew Scott Daniels' Blog Personal, usually technical posts

May 31, 2011

ReactOS for hardware companies and GNU/kwin32

Filed under: technical — admin @ 9:21 pm

ReactOS can be useful for hardware companies looking for a cheap simple platform to show off their hardware when they only have a driver for Microsoft Windows.

Linux tools may someday be even easier to get for Windows though the Debian project. Cygwin and MinGW are good, but Debian has more resources to help maintain a larger number of programs. The Debian win32 mailing list has discussed several efforts for the port.

ReactOS is an Open Source operating system that aims for Windows compatibility. I used to work at Linear Systems Ltd., a computer engineering company that mainly developed hardware for the broadcast industry, but had specialized software as well. While working there I got increasingly interested in ReactOS.

Why my interest in ReactOS?

  • It’s free.
  • It’s Open Source.
    • It’s easier to debug low level issues when you have all the source code.
    • It’s easier to customize low level options when you have all the source code and can search and modify it.
    • Working on it I can give back to the community that gives to me.
  • Contributing and using ReactOS might make tools only available on, or more easily available from Linux also be available on Microsoft Windows (as I sometimes have to use Microsoft Windows).

To answer my questions in my notes:

  • ReactOS does support WDM drivers.
  • I never did find out if the Linear Systems driver would work on ReactOS which is a pity. I believe the driver is a free download so someone with hardware can give it a try.
  • The Linear Systems NDIS driver is likely now unsupported as there are no new parts needed to build the required hardware.
  • debian-win32 is largely a dead list now. I still periodically check the list archives. There have been some interesting new efforts to port dpkg and apt to Windows, but none that have done both using MinGW. Many of the supposed technical problems have either been removed in newer versions of Windows, or perhaps didn’t exist. This however seems like a different post.
  • It seems mingw is the way to go to have glibc support for Microsoft Windows and ReactOS.
  • Debian GNU/win32 may be more possible given the success of the Debian GNU/kFreeBSD port that uses glibc on the FreeBSD kernel.
  • To get Debian onto the win32 kernel, the base packages need to be updated. There are existing ports of dpkg to windows through at least cygwin. The Emdebian project may have made this easier with simplifying what needs to be ported with projects like Emdebian Crush that puts off issues like porting a vanilla Perl to Windows. I should not however that there is a project to port vanilla Perl to windows called: Vanilla Perl.
  • ReactOS licenses allow it to be used for commercial purposes.
  • ReactOS can support ext2 through existing 3rd party Windows drivers.
  • My notes dated “Monday, January 26th, 2004” are as follows:


    • Does it support WDM?
    • Does it suppport our DVB driver [ed note: Linear Systems’ PCI card driver]?
    • Does it support our NDIS driver [ed note: Linear Systems’ T1 card driver]?
  • Suggested on debian-win32 that GLibc maintainers wouldn’t support patches for MS Windows as it’s Closed Source. Investigate if they’d support ReactOS.
  • Can Debian be made to boot a ReactOS kernel?
  • Can ReactOS be componentized for Debian?
  • What things need to be done to get Debian to support ReactOS? (triplet?)
  • What are the licences on ReactOS?
  • Can ReactOS support ext2? ext3?

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