[ros-general] Reaction project announcement

Chris Monahan foreverwatcher at googlemail.com
Tue Sep 29 16:37:38 CEST 2009


ReactOS Mailing List

I'm not a developer, i'm just a follower of the community and enthusiast but
allow me to outline why the decision to not include components that do not
add to the compatibility with the Win32 platform is more than simple
politics.

The way windows works is that it provides a solid OS that has the neccesary
API's to accomodate a healthy ecosystem of third-party software. It also
bends over backwards to enable such third party software to work. I feel
that this emphasis on third party packages and maintaining this ecosystem is
possibly the most important of Windows principles. This is not a principle
of Linux, or rather the third party software ecosystem only really exists on
a source code level. (I'm not counting community repositories as 'third
party' I mean there are pretty much no packages that you can just download,
install and run on any given linux flavour and version.)

That's just the way it works there; arguably it's more secure for Linux, but
it lacks in many ways the flexibility of Windows. For example I cannot
install the latest firefox or OpenOffice in ubuntu without potentially
breaking something - instead I wait for the next release of ubuntu.

ReactOS attempts to provides a synthesis of the opensource values of Linux
and this software flexibility of Windows.

There is a tension, however, when you look at the bigger picture. Microsoft
is a principle developer for it's own platform, and will often bundle things
in an 'integrated' manner within the OS. This, in a sense, defies the
third-party philosophy that should be inherent with the platform. This may
be less of a problem these days as developers and users are more aware, but
it's still an issue.

ReactOS, it seems, attempts to get rid of this tension by harshly pushing
back the line between OS and third-party software - no bundling of anything
that isn''t neccesary to maintain that third-party ecosystem. This is not a
bad thing as it allows this software flexibility to show its strength, but
many who are used to the feature set of linux distros and editions of
Windows are confused. It must be noted that just because ReactOS won't come
with Python, or a media player, or a browser etc does not mean that they
will not be available. Because of the software flexibility inherent in the
platform, it will be a simple matter of downloading a package and running
it.

There's also nothing that anyone can, or should, do to stop people
distributing versions with software packages bundled or 'integrated' a la
the Reaction project. It has been said in the past that such 'distros' would
compromise reactos, creating a nightmare of mutually incompatible systems
like we see in the Linux world. I counter that the nature of the platform is
such that those that break compatibiltiy will neccesarily die out, and to
restrict or condemn third party distros would in fact be damaging to the
strength of a platform with such emphasis on third party software.

The decision to keep ReactOS pure has more to it than simple politics. It is
a principled commitment to the purity of the platform. It, of course, could
be associated with the childish anti-linux stance adopted by a minority of
ReactOS community members, but they do not speak for the project as a whole
and they should largely be ignored in favour of relevent criticisms and
judgements about the roles of each platform.

Chris Monahan
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