You may have heard about ReactOS, the free operating system striving to offer full compatibility to MS Windows.
Will it ever grow up? After all, it has been under development for many years now and is still not more than an alpha version.

I have been giving ReactOS a try several times over the last couple of years, and while I think that it’s an interesting project with great goals, I still have some doubts about it.

For example: Why does ReactOS still install on a FAT filesystem instead of NTFS? Or at least offer NTFS as an option. Are all the freely available NTFS drivers not portable enough to adapt to ReactOS? I don’t think that can be the reason.
If ReactOS wants to become an option for users it needs to support NTFS. Why? Because aside from USB sticks hardly anybody is using FAT anymore. FAT32 only supports files up to 4GB, which nowadays isn’t very impressive. Think multimedia, DVD images and the likes.

It’s great to see ReactOS improve, to be able to run more and more Windows software, but there are some basic things that need to be done before I’d consider it more than a nice toy to try out in a VM.

There’s a lot of stuff available FOSS users may already know from their Linux distribution of choice. Like a centralized interface to install, update and remove software, many popular programs like LibreOffice, Gimp or Inkscape, so why not NTFS-3g or the NTFSProgs, to stick with my previous example.
And I think this example of not supporting NTFS may actually become one of the biggest reasons for people not to use ReactOS. While the whole environment matures and becomes more and more useful, it still isn’t possible for people to access the data on their old Windows partitions.

The ReactOS team does acknowledge the need for NTFS support, but they also say

“The ReactOS Project will eventually see NTFS support as a priority, but for now, there is no critical reason to have it.”

I think it’s time to think about changing the priority for this. I can happily play OpenTTD, surf the web with Firefox, but we’re still lacking this feature.

I know, it sounds a bit like I’m a Windows fanatic crying about not being able to access his partitions in ReactOS, but I am just trying to point out a missing feature that I think is very important for the acceptance of ReactOS.

So, what else, other than NTFS, does ReactOS need?
The answer is quite simple: Buzz

People, especially developers and enthusiasts have to be aware of it.
Development has been going on since 1996, yet it’s a relatively unknown system. And the more people learn about it the more can participate in one way or another. More development and more testing may get ReactOS out of the swamp and onto the highway. Otherwise the day might come where ReactOS simply is too late to be relevant, as mature and awesome it may be by then. It could be switch to an incompatible architecture, or some other major innovation in computing that renders current systems obsolete, and with a lack a manpower the ReactOS team may not be able to react to such change as fast as the Linux community or Microsoft could.

So, if you have any interest in ReactOS, or free operating systems in general, I would like to ask you to somehow participate. Create buzz for ReactOS, tweet this, or other articles like this one, tell your geek friends, test or even help develop ReactOS.
It would be a waste of a lot of hard work and passion to see ReactOS go down the drain.

Thank you!
Dennis Wronka