BIM - BERKELEY IN MUNICH
BERKELEY SOFTWARE DISTRIBUTION
This leaflet aims to give an overview of the three open
source representatives of the family of BSD
computer operating systems:
|| || http://www.freebsd.org/
|| || http://www.netbsd.org/
|| || http://www.openbsd.org/
Deutsch übersetzung auch erhaltlich:
to BIM, http://www.berklix.org/bim/
Subject to change.
to Typeset: LATEX2e on FreeBSD
Prepared/ Printed in Germany - Imprimé en Allemagne
What Is BSD ?
This leaflet aims to give the most important answers,
plus starting points to get you asking more questions that go deeper
than this leaflet covers.
Many BSDs - One Philosophy
at the University of Berkeley, California. Today's BSD Systems are
direct descendants from "`4.4BSD Lite2"', the last official BSD
version from Berkeley.
The origins of BSD go back to the 1970s, and the history is too
complex to roll out here, but one can say:
- There's over 30 years development work in BSD systems, in that the
software has been continually improved to modern requirements, but
without ever throwing out the entire thing and starting completely
As a result BSD derivatives are mature and stable without teething troubles.
- Over time, multiple loosely coupled branches of BSD have evolved,
each following their own objectives, but remaining very similar
and through cross porting of interfaces, drivers and applications
- Today, derivatives include:
FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD,
Other BSD derivatives also exist, but aren't covered here for lack of space:
Darwin (from Apple), DragonflyBSD; plus
commercial BSD derivatives: BSDi from Wind River, and Mac OS-X from Apple.
- None of the BSDs is a "`Linux Distribution"' - Linux and the BSDs
are similar insofar as they use much of the same software, eg
Gcc etc.) but kernel, licence, and development models are markedly
Why Use BSD ?
All BSDs have the following attributes and conditions in common.
The majority of the source code of the BSD operating systems is available
under the standard BSD licence. In contrast to the GPL licence
used by the Linux Kernel, BSD licences
allow distribution of binaries without accompanying sources, which
is important for commercial products, which are based on BSD code
but for which companies want to release either no, or only partial
From One Mould
Each BSD encompasses not just the kernel, but also a number of
system libraries (libc, libpam...), user programs (ls, more, find,
sort, lpr...) and system administrator commands (ifconfig, chown,
cron, dump, restore...) as well as build tools (gcc, make, ld) as
the "`operating system"', that are regarded as a unified
whole, and maintained as such.
Upgrades to the kernel and tools interfacing to it at are synchronised
and released together as a cohesive whole.
The entire operating system including the kernel can be rebuilt from the
sources with just a few commands.
A strict separation between operating system and supplementary
applications (eg Apache,
Netscape, OpenOffice etc) prevails, implemented
in seperate source hierarchies. In consequence application programs
can be updated separately, which increases the longevity of
All BSDs maintain their complete operating system source code in a
CVS repository. Thus all changes can be reconstructed, reviewed and
if necessary also reversed.
A release engineering team controls the entire integrated product.
The BSD projects are not undisciplined heaps of code, in which many
dabble, but form professional organisations similar to commercial
software projects. Each has a "`Steering Committee" ', called
Core , which overviews programming sub projects etc.
Around the core teams there are numerous sub projects of developers
- called Commiters - responsible for addition and
maintenance of documentation, kernel, driver, networking, applications and
3rd party package sources etc.
Software Galore !
All BSDs can compile and run
available from eg http://freshmeat.net, and there are usually also pre-compiled
binary packages (Gimp, KDE, teTeX etc).
ABIs (Application Binary Interfaces) allow Linux programs to run
on the BSDs, for cases where the only binary package available is
for Linux. Thus further programs can be run on BSD even if the
latest version is only available for Linux, (eg
There's no noticeable speed impact. The quality and functionality
of the Linux ABIs is however not equally well developed on all BSDs -
FreeBSD has the most functionality.
Stable File System
The UFS file system has been highly valued for years and offers
very high performance. The Softupdates option enhances performance,
and secures data integrity in the unlikely event of a crash.
The FreeBSD 5.x series also provides faster booting: File systems are safely
mounted even before asynchronous checking later !
(Attractive for corporate systems with large disc arrays).
Raid is supported, both hardware and software.
Ports/ Packages System
Much free software is only available in source format, or has
licencing restrictions on distribution in binary Package
format, (the BSD equivalent of Linux RPMs). The Ports
Framework covers such contingencies. It consists of a hierarchy
of Makefiles and where necessary patches, which unpack generic source
packages, compile and install them. The Ports System can
fetch and apply sources and binaries it needs from the Internet, or from
CDROM, including building and installing any dependencies.
Individual BSDs In Detail:
FreeBSD - http://www.freebsd.org
On normal PCs (Intel i386 derivative Hardware) FreeBSD is the
most frequently encountered representative of the BSD family. This
is probably because it offers the broadest hardware support for
this platform, and is best optimised for it. Also it tends more
than the other two to "`functional comfortable-ness"' as experienced
on other desk top systems. Thus it is more attractive for newcomers,
also offering the biggest collection of ported software, with over
FreeBSD no longer regards itself just as a pure server system for
skilled administrators, but aims itself also at end
users, particularly newcomers from Windows and Linux.
FreeBSD 5.0 (released Jan 2003) now supports
a variety of computer architectures:
Intel Pentiums etc,
Power PC and StrongARM ports are in progress, but not available yet.
FreeBSD alone of the three offers matured SMP multi processor support.
NetBSD - http://www.netbsd.org
NetBSD is slightly older than FreeBSD. Its most outstanding characteristic
is the large and growing number of hardware platforms it supports - far
more architectures than any other operating system. The list
would exceed space here, and would
quickly be incomplete and obsolete so refer to the NetBSD web page.
In many cases the decision to go NetBSD is easy, as it's the only
one available which runs on the hardware. If one has such exotic
hardware, that none of the three BSD systems run on it so far, the
chance is greatest with NetBSD that a port can be achieved with
Although not much older than FreeBSD, NetBSD happily portrays itself
as the "`big brother" ' of open source BSDs. It tends more than the
other two to maintain traditional BSD characteristics. This
conservative behavior also has quite a positive, compensatory effect
on the other BSD systems.
Due to modular hardware and driver infrastructure NetBSD is attractive
for embedded applications, on Strongarm,
OpenBSD - http://www.openbsd.org
OpenBSD split from NetBSD in 1996, and is the youngest
of the three.
Although it inherited a lot of platform-ports from NetBSD,
some of the rarer platforms have become stunted due to lack of resources.
"`OpenBSD's"' emphasis is on "`Security"'. Though FreeBSD
and NetBSD have also not neglected this, it's where OpenBSD shines.
This doesn't mean that OpenBSD is a "`Security Software Stew"',
rather "`Security"' in OpenBSD also means Correctness.
The team led by Theo de Raadt has performed a complete line by line
source code audit of the operating system to weed out any bugs and
detect and remove possible vulnerabilties. (Naturally FreeBSD and
NetBSD also profited from this, as corrections were
adopted, where appropriate). OpenBSD's support for security also
means extensive support for cryptography. Prominent here is the
unique support for several hardware crypto accelerator cards and
the broad integration of strong cryptography in the OS. As Theo
de Raadt lives in Canada, these algorithms are not encumbered with
USA export restrictions.
-- Extra Info --
The English leaflet is maintained in parallel with the German version,
but as English is more compact, there's space below for extra info.
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Join BIM Mail Lists
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Free BSD and Other Software
http://www.berklix.com/ jhs/free/ - Free Software.
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Commercial BSD Support
http://www.bsdpie.com - BSD Professionals In Europe
http://www.berklix.com/consultants/ - Global BSD Consultants Index
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The translation was initiated by Julian H. Stacey on 2018-01-27