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ReactOS 0.4 brings open source Windows closer to reality
The team behind ReactOS, an open-source reimplementation of Windows, released a new version that brings improved hardware support and better filesystem support, among a variety of other changes.
ReactOS is a free and open source implementation of the Windows NT architecture, which intends to provide support for existing applications and drivers, outside of the control of Microsoft.
Much like Linux distributions, the ReactOS team is responsible for integrating a variety of libraries together to create a working OS image. As a result, the ReactOS team is not responsible for recreating every core function of Windows—the TCP/IP stack is provided by lwIP, fonts are handled by freetype, and various other libraries like libjpeg, libpng, and zlib (among others) are provided by upstream projects which are also incorporated in various Linux distributions. Accordingly, support for Win32 programs is provided through WINE, with the kernel and other low-level utilities written by the ReactOS team.
The release of ReactOS 0.4 brings improved file system support, including native, out-of-the-box support for ext2, ext3, and ext4, as well as read-only support for NTFS.
Additionally, the bundled version of UniATA was updated to add better support for SATA and PATA devices. Support was generally improved for third-party device drivers, making it substantially easier to install and use real hardware, as opposed to just virtual machines like VirtualBox.
The internal WINE library was updated to improve support for Win32 programs. Support for Python 2.7 was added, making it possible to use python scripts in ReactOS. A substantial number of visual changes were added, with a vastly improved shell and file explorer, newer icons throughout ReactOS, improved support for fonts, and customizable visual themes.