Using ReactOS, some more random notes.

So, first item, I have been using the nightly release builds. I started with the 0.4.14 version, but I wanted to try a newer version. As a note, upgrading from 0.4.14 to the nightly did not work for me, but I am not sure if it supposed to work. However, I have not had issues upgrading to newer nightly builds. I do take a snapshot before each update.

I am running ReactOS with VirtualBox, my current version is 7.0.6_Gentoo r155176, on a Gentoo host. I had no problem installing Guest Additions and video and sound work in my VM. The current ReactOS version:

Current ReactOS nightly version I am using.

First a disclaimer, the following issues I list might be from something I have done wrong and not a ReactOS issue.

One issue I have always had is saving the running VirtualBox VM and restarting. It is not a huge issue because the VM starts very quickly. It would be nice to restart without having to reopen all my apps. I have had this issue on two systems. This is the error I get:

Blue screen when restoring VBox machine.

Next issue is remote drive mounting. I keep most items on a Synology NAS share which is mounted on the host Gentoo system. I share the host directory with the ReactOS VM through VirtualBox using “Auto Mount”, “Make Permanent”, and a driver letter. When I used /Persistent with the net command, ReactOS would not restart after a couple of boots (cannot really remember), it displayed a red stripe with a frozen display. I just made a bat file on the desktop to mount with a drive letter. This might be a mistake on my part.

Another minor issue was installing Open Watcom v2 using the GUI installer (link is an example open-watcom-2_0-c-win-x86.exe file). On a new install it is just an uncomplicated way to get OW installed. The following is the GUI installer from the ReactOS desktop. Click no, the screen flashes and the same dialog is displayed. Click yes and the app closes.

Open Watcom v2 Install Screen

However, if I run it from the command line using the -i option (no dialogs) everything is installed. This is minor because after the install I unarchive nightly OW builds into the Watcom directory.

Open Watcom v2 After GUI Install

I did try to install Visual Studio 2017 and I get an error. It is no big deal; I just want to see if it installed, but it might not be supported.

MS Studio 2017 Install Attempt.

Occasionally, or maybe more, when an install dialog or other dialog is displayed some of the text is missing.

One installation I found useful is the GNU Utilities for Win32. I unarchive it in the root and put the binary directory in Path. This helps swapping between ReactOS and Linux considering I am always typing ls rather than dir.

Okay, there are some rambling thoughts/comments. Overall, I cannot understand why 0.4.15 is not the “latest and greatest” for downloading. It is much better than the 0.4.14 version.

Gentoo Gnome 44 with Kernel 6.2.8

Gnome 44 is in the Gentoo repository, not stable yet. The transition was not as painful as my early transition to Gnome 43. The only issue so far has been gnome-clocks, but that is very minor. Most extensions worked, had a like replacement, or after tweaking the metadata.json file version.

Edited 3-27: After update to vala-0.56.4, gnome-clocks-44.0 compiled and installed.

Nautilus 43.1 Open in Terminal

A quick one, I wanted to use gnome console with the current Nautilus. Anyway, I started with the example in nautilus-python and python (which I do not like using) and fixed things the way I wanted them to be.

It can be downloaded here. Once installed and Nautilus restarted, it will provide a menu item when a directory is right clicked called “Open in terminal”. If this menu is selected, a submenu is available to select either Gnome Terminal or Gnome Console.

Edited 5 Dec 22. Sorry for the poor pictures but added for clarity. Selecting a directory in the right panel displays Open in terminal selection.

Clicking the Open in terminal will pop up a selection between Gnome Terminal and Gnome Console.

Vortex PC66 (68 Key) Follow-up

The Vortex PC66 is a retro-ish PCjr keyboard. The PCjr was sold March 1984 to May 1985 and first used a chiclet keyboard that was junk. In 1984, the PCjr was shipped with a new keyboard. The following picture is an original 1984 PCjr keyboard and a Vortex PC66 (68 key) keyboard. The Vortex 66 (66 key) is more like the original without the left Ctrl and Windows/Super key which I do not think would be usable for me. I first saw the PC66 in a YouTube video A Modern IBM PCjr style Mechanical Keyboard! Vortex PC66.

The keyboard can be connected 2.4 wireless via USB dongle, wired via USB cable, and Bluetooth. I had problems using the wireless and wired connections on my desktop, but it did work on my laptop. Just a hazard of running Gentoo, I would need to configure and recompile the desktop kernel. However, I settled for using Bluetooth which was one of the reasons I bought this keyboard. Bluetooth can be paired with three devices, and I can easily switch between the paired systems. I have my desktop and an Intel NUC at my computer desk and connect temporary systems as a third device at times. The following are the connection instructions.

PC66 Connection Instructions

Up to the point of using the keyboard, I worried about the lack of dedicated keys I was used to having. After using the keyboard for a week, I am incredibly happy with the key combinations. What makes the special key usage easy, in my opinion, is having the Fn key in the lower right section of the keyboard. For example, I am already used to dropping my thumb on Fn and tapping Backspace for Delete. Again, the 68 key version of the PC66 has a “Windows” key and it serves as the Super Key to bring up Gnome Overview. The following lists the key combinations for the PC66.

Keyboard Combinations

The keyboard is small, but I have used a Logitech K780 for a few years and I like the small size. The PC66 does not have a number pad, but I rarely if ever use the keyboard number pad. The positive is that without the keypad the actual keys are larger in the same footprint of the K780. I have not used my PC66 on MAC or Windows, but it works well on Linux/Gnome. Finally, while I am not a retro computer collector, I do like the mechanical keyboard click. Enough of my ramblings, interspersed with pictures, here is the condensed list:

  • The price. The PC66 is pricey and for me it was more a want than a need.
  • It is heavy. Heavy enough to be used as a weapon, since I do not carry the keyboard with me it is not a concern.
  • Works with Linux which should not be a real surprise.
  • The PC66 can switch between up to three systems which was big have to have for me.
  • The height is quite a bit taller than any of my other keyboards, but I use a wrist pad that makes this issue unimportant.
  • The Function key (Fn) combinations take a while to get used to, but the placement of the Fn key and combination layout make it much easier.
  • The mechanical click is great, and the key size is perfect for people with fat fingers like me.

I originally thought I would give the PC66 a try and ended up storing the K780, so I think it will be my daily driver.

PC66 in use

Gnome 43

Better put, almost Gnome 43. It was painful but it is and installed.

Linux littleturd 6.0.2-gentoo-hpz820-mgreene #1 SMP PREEMPT Sat Oct 15 14:54:04 EDT 2022 x86_64 Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2690 0 @ 2.90GHz GenuineIntel GNU/Linux

Gnome 42

I thought I would never reach a stable Gnome 42 install! The big issue was the mouse movement. Everything was fine under xorg, but mouse movement and overall screen image sucked under Wayland. Anyway, the mouse is sync’d to display resolution and my refresh rate was set to something like 24hz, I do not know how that happened. Either way, all fixed now.

Traditionally, GNOME Shell has been compressing pointer motion events so its handling is synchronized to the monitor refresh rate, this means applications would typically see approximately 60 events per second (or 144 if you follow the trends).

Linux littleturd 5.17.14-gentoo-hpz820-mgreene #2 SMP PREEMPT Thu Jun 9 21:06:34 EDT 2022 x86_64 Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2690 0 @ 2.90GHz GenuineIntel GNU/Linux

ReactOS as a 32bit Open Watcom Dev Environment

I was having problems with the old Windows XP VM I use to compile Open Watcom (OW) boot projects. This VM is an image of my original XP Desktop install that I have IDA and a lot of unused junk, so I decided to build a barebones VM for just using OW compiling. Initially, I was going to use a Windows 7 install as a lightweight single purpose solution; however, that turned out to be a real pain. Even using a real DVD on Windows 7 seemed to be more trouble than it was worth, so I looked for another option. I finally settled on setting up and giving a ReactOS VM.

ReactOS System About
VirtualBox ReactOS VM

I was incredibly surprised that this worked very well. The VM is lightweight, and I have not had many issues of concern. The VM does not seem to restore correctly from a VirtualBox save, but loading is so fast it really does not matter. My work setup for this project is to code in Visual Studio Code for Linux with the source on a Synology NAS share. The share is mounted (systemd automount) in my home directory. The ReactOS VM shares this directory for access to the source and the VM mounts a FAT16 vdi which is my test image that gets booted using Bochs emulator running from a bash shell on my Linux system.

VS Code About GUI

The workflow is to code in VS Code (on Linux), compile and copy the binary to the FAT16 vdi image using the ReactOS VM, and run the test system using Bochs (Linux) using its internal debugger.

VSCode and ReactOS VM on Gentoo Desktop