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Open source operating systems on Windows

Getting Windows fanatics to explore beyond their task bar or start button can sometimes be a difficult task. I made the jump with the FlyakiteOSX Windows add-on on my new Dual Pentium 3 workstation with two 18-inch LCD screens.

This front end mimics the Mac's new OS right down to the Search Spy and the Object Dock. It was painless and provides a gorgeous introduction to the world of the Apple Macintosh - provided you have loads of memory, a dedicated video card and a quick hard drive.

Now, if I made the jump to Apple and started to like their operating system - or at least its front end - then what is there to prevent Linux from taking a similar idea and running with it.

What about a Windows XP look alike, or at least a Unix/Linux shell, to help those, who like me, are apprehensive of making the move to Linux because of the fear of the unknown. There are, in fact, a number of initiatives out there to get Linux on Windows, rather than the other way round.

Reactos is the most ambitious of them all, and aims at duplicating Windows XP from the ground up. It is compatible with Microsoft Windows applications and drivers, plus it shares quite a bit of brain power with WINE, which is a software emulator for Windows.

You can read more about the features on their website, where you’ll see a few screenshots with Reactos running some major software like Microsoft Office 2003, Photoshop, Visual Studio and DOOM.

Another example of Linux coming to Windows is Winlinux 2003. Unfortunately, while its hardware requirements are less demanding than most Linux operating systems, it is not compatible with Windows XP, NT and 2000, although you can still have a go at it using WINE.

WinLinux installs itself like any ordinary Windows application, as an executable file and you can find out more at their website.

And don’t forget the efforts of coLinux (opens in new tab) as well as the little known BeOS (opens in new tab), which, at one time, was hailed as the natural OS for the Apple platform - how times have changed.

BeOS is particularly impressive as it was an operating system built from ground up to be multimedia and Internet friendly. You can download both operating systems and tinker with them for free.

Last but not least, there is the native port of KDE on Windows, which started last year. Along with Gnome, KDE is one of the two preferred Linux shell or desktop managers.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.