[NetBehaviour] Why FreeBSD - quick tour of the BSD alternative
marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Jul 25 13:39:57 CEST 2005
A quick tour of the BSD alternative*
Frank Pohlmann (frank at linuxuser.co.uk), U.K. Technical Editor, Linuxuser
19 Jul 2005
The FreeBSD operating system is the unknown giant among free operating
systems. Starting out from the 386BSD project, it is an extremely fast
UNIX?-like operating system mostly for the Intel? chip and its clones.
In many ways, FreeBSD has always been the operating system that
GNU/Linux?-based operating systems should have been. It runs on
out-of-date Intel machines and 64-bit AMD chips, and it serves terabytes
of files a day on some of the largest file servers on earth.
The Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) family of operating systems can
be traced back to the BSD UNIX operating system created and maintained
at the University of California, Berkeley, since the late 1970s. Today,
the BSD family consists of five main branches, and even Linux activists,
comfortable with a plethora of distributions, find themselves bemused by
the number of BSD flavors appearing in ever-greater numbers. Since 2001,
when the last major branch -- DragonFly BSD -- was launched, FreeBSD,
OpenBSD, NetBSD, and Mac OS X represent a new creative surge in the UNIX
world. All of them are POSIX-compliant. All present similar command-line
interfaces to their users. All use kernels and system libraries that
make similar programming models and application usage characteristics
For legal reasons, BSD cannot be called a UNIX system, but it is widely
accepted that the BSD flavors represent open source UNIX. Amazingly, in
the late 1980s and early 1990s, no free operating system worth the name
running on the PC or Mac was available. UNIX lived on mainframes and the
Scalable Processor Architecture (SPARC). Proprietary UNIX companies had
balkanized the commercial UNIX scene.
In the beginning, there was 386BSD
In 1993, two events occurred that were to change the UNIX scene
permanently: The NetBSD group was founded, and the 386BSD patch kit was
revived. Ten years before, BSD UNIX developers had been recruited from
the ranks of U.C. Berkeley staff and Ph.D. students; the money had
largely come from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),
but the funding was coming to an end. The 386BSD project came into being
in 1985 as an attempt to get BSD UNIX to run on an Intel chip. The first
release did not occur before 1989, and for various reasons, the project
ended up becoming a reference operating system publicized by Dr. Dobb's
Journal in July 1992. Known as 386BSD 0.1, it experienced 250,000 downloads.
The 386BSD was mainly based on Bill and Lynne Jolitz's ideas to improve
the very concepts on which UNIX was based. It was meant to be free, but
supporting a complete operating system virtually on their own proved to
be beyond the Jolitzes. The system lost out to the armada of programmers
joining an almost unknown Finnish student help build Linux.
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