Today I would like to officially announce the (sub)project I was working on for the last half a year, and make a call to developers to participate.
ReactOS has been around for about 11 years, and it's been growing each year since then. The demand for an open source Windows-compatible operating system is huge: geek, servers, netbooks, accounting, point of sales, CAD... The list could go on and on.
Time goes by, new versions of Windows operating systems are being released. ReactOS usability still has not reached any significant value. Not to say ReactOS didn't even officially enter the Beta stage. Separately, there are many achievements: audio support appeared, bootloader is able to boot real Windows, some Windows binary drivers could be loaded and work in ReactOS, networking is being improved every day, the kernel is being actively worked on too. But all of that does not really matter for the end user. For a user it's important that a web-browser loads websites, instant messenger client connects and works, [Microsoft/Open] Office shows documents, email client gets new messages.
This bare usability is what's still missing, and if it continues to be like this, I am afraid our project won't be of much use in another 10 years. Certainly, I became very concerned and started analyzing situation. Being opensource project without major commercial sponsors, there are certain limitations as to what could be done to improve the situation, so mainly it's a matter of picking right priorities and properly managing (motivating) existing human resources.
The part of ReactOS which plays major role in compatibility and usability is Win32 subsystem. Right now, it's a huge monster which requires a lot more human resources than we have now. It's very hard and time consuming to reach even Windows 2000 level of compatibility with current amount of participating developers, and high entry level.
I came up with something which could solve this problem: Arwinss. To better explain what it is, I made a special presentation (URL to slides in PDF format is in the end of this email). Please imagine myself talking through it as I didn't perform/record it.
Now, after you read through the presentation, I would like to make a proposal to all developers (even newcomers, who never worked on ReactOS before). Let's make an Arwinss week, or Arwinss month. Every developer could definitely find a few hours during a week to hack Arwinss. Entry level is rather low, there are some basic docs about Arwinss in the wiki, and I am happy to consult about details.
If I could make this new subsystem out of nothing (out of Wine and ReactOS) almost alone (Kamil and Smiley help is very valued and appreciated!) within a few months, imagine what we could do all together?
With the best regards,
The presentation: (links to further information are in the presentation too)
Briefly, what was done:
- gdi32.dll - source code is nearly unmodified from Wine, but compiled in ReactOS tree, into a real PE DLL.
- user32.dll - source code is nearly unmodified from Wine, but compiled in ReactOS tree, into a real PE DLL.
- What about Wineserver, you would ask? SERVER_START_REQ and related macros are rewritten to perform a syscall to win32k.sys (more about win32k.sys below). Server protocol is the same, but of course many requests aren't need.
- winex11.drv - this is the one if you want X Server to be your interface. This is unchanged Wine source code, again compiled inside a ReactOS source tree into a PE DLL
- winent.drv - an alternative user/gdi driver, which mostly forwards all calls into a kernel mode graphics engine located in win32k.sys (which is compatible with Windows video drivers, so all acceleration could be used).
- win32k.sys - kernelmode counterpart of the new Win32 subsystem, contains graphics engine, user server which is based on a small part of platform-independent Wineserver source code adapted to kernelmode, and a simple window manager which calculates visible regions for windows and manages window showing/hiding.