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Open Source Windows Clone Coming Soon?

It is quite unlikely that any of us will ever see an open source version of Microsoft Windows in our lifetimes.

Or is it?

Though such an effort is not forthcoming from Redmond, the ReactOS open source project has been trying to come up with an open source "clone" of Windows for 10 years.

With the new 0.3 ReactOS release, the group is now closer than ever before.

The 0.3 release is a major milestone for the ReactOS project because it is the first to include basic networking functionality, such as allowing a user to download and use Firefox to browse the Web.

Edwards noted that while ReactOS has had the ability to "build itself" for quite a while, it lacked the ability to run the third party applications on the network, such as a Web browser.

This hampered development.

"The fact that basic networking really works is a major step forward," ReactOS developer Steven Edwards told internetnews.com.

"Being able to use ReactOS as even a thin client enables the developers to dogfood it [test], so to speak, and start to really use it as a workstation."

The decade-old effort to create a Windows operating system as an open source or free software based system has certainly not been without its hurdles.

Most recently, allegations surfaced that the project may have inadvertently included Microsoft Windows source code in the project.

In February of this year, the project's leaders declared that there is no code which is directly copy-pasted from MS kernel code.

At that time, only 15 percent of the ReactOS code had been audited. Fast forward to August: 95 percent of the code has been audited.

Edwards said he doesn't think that the issue of Microsoft code infection has been "put to bed," but he does think the project has made a good faith effort.

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has been doing an audit for the Wine project at the same time the ReactOS Project has been running its internal audit.

Edwards said he hopes that when the SFLC audit is complete, some standards and guidelines for development of a project that requires reverse engineering are published that other Free Software projects can follow.

"Perhaps in the future if there is any question about ReactOS, a third party audit like the one done for Wine can also be done."

"When an audit can be conducted by such a third party I believe the issue will finally be put to bed."