out of curiousity...

Martin Courcelles martinfc at rogers.com
Wed Jan 28 19:12:58 UTC 2009

I did a quick search on google on this very topic and I found the following 
FreeBSD vs Linux

(You can also look at my article about OpenBSD, or look here: Linux Versus 
BSD With A Little Focus On OpenBSD)

Scott Barman

Before I answer, I want it on record that I am proponent of Linux. I have 
used the Red Hat and Caldera versions and have found excellent features of 
both. However, I am a proponent of all the BSD-based systems because of the 
history, technology, and the openness of the systems... all the same 
reasons that I like Linux. Of course I have my biases, which I will explain 
as I answer this note.

What's the big deal, really? If FreeBSD is so good, why don't I hear more 
about it, why don't we hear about Oracle et. al. porting to it, etc.? Am I 
missing out on something great?

1) FreeBSD is not as open a development model as Linux and is "less sexy", 
hence it gets less press (this point is very IMO)

The FreeBSD organization is just that, an organization. Overall, it is 
really more organized than the Linux "organization." You can find out about 
all FreeBSD activity from their web site and the points of contact 
mentioned (see www.freebsd.org). It is a very open development model. 
However, the FreeBSD people like to make sure there are no parallel 
development efforts to ensure cleaner releases.

Unfortunately, there are several Linux organizations tracking Linux 
development and there really is no single coordination effort to make one 
standard distribution. Other than the kernel, you can see this fracturing 
(your words) when you look the differences in what you get if you buy a CD 
from Red Hat, Caldera, SuSE, or the Slackware CD (from www.cdrom.com).

FreeBSD is based on the 4.4BSD source code that was redacted following the 
consent decree in AT&T v. Berkeley Software Design, Inc. (BSDI) case when 
AT&T sued BSDi for using unlicensed AT&T source code licensed from UC-
Berkeley (sorry, I don't have the case number handy). The Computer Science 
Research Group (CSRG) at Berkeley got out of the BSD business (after most 
of their members ran off to BSDi) and published the redacted source code as 
4.4BSD-lite (no more licensing requirements). That's when the developers 
grabbed it and ran.

A big difference between FreeBSD and Linux is the base. BSD has been around 
since the early 1980s. It was furthered by Dennis Ritchie's sabbatical in 
Berkeley (I think in 1979) and by the Defense Advanced Projects Research 
Agency (DARPA) grant to port TCP/IP to Unix. The history is legendary and 
includes names like Bill Joy (csh, curses, vi) and Mark Horton (sendmail). 
BSD is older, more advanced, and has superior networking code (based on 
many performance tests). In fact, when Sun ported System V Release 4.0 to 
create Solaris 2, they dumped the AT&T/USG/UI/Novell TCP/IP and replaced it 
with the BSD-based code they were using under SunOS (which came from 
4.3BSD-Tahoe) because it was just plain better.

Linux was born when Linus Torvalds started playing with Minix, a very basic 
system written by Dr. Andrew Tannenbaum. Dr. Tannenbaum developed Minix to 
teach students about operating systems using "common" PCs. He later 
published a book using Minix as its base and published the source code. 
Torvalds worked from a version of this source. It has less of a history, 
but a sexy one, in comparison - the kind that sells the over abundance of 
trade rags.

The BSD camp is more fractured than Linux (there's FreeBSD, NetBSD, 
OpenBSD, etc.) so there's more infighting and there's no glorious leader, 
so the PR is harder.

FreeBSD is the version that runs on Intel-based processors starting with 
the 80386. It is very tightly coupled to the "standard" Wintel 

NetBSD is run by a group that saw the strict PC base and wanted the BSD 
code on more systems. NetBSD supports a lot of different platforms almost 
seamlessly! The same program you write for your PC-based NetBSD system will 
run on your Motorola MC68030-based Sun 3, DEC Alpha, MIPS-based SGI, and 
PA-RISC based HP with a simple recompile. There is no need for a bunch of 
#ifdef's for the different OS types. One operating system, many 

OpenBSD is the "fractured" group. They were formed when their "leader" got 
ticked off because of whatever politics he didn't like. I once got his 
story, but you can read more about it on their web site (www.openbsd.org).

There is no in fighting... at least not any more. :-) There is no 
"glorious" leader. They don't want one. These people are happy with the 
organization they have, which seems to be fair to all developers and 
organizes releases, including their content.

So there's no P.R. However, the "sexiness" of Torvalds story overshadows 
the real story of BSD. This is why Linux gets all the press. It is NOT 
because of organization or even technology. If superior technology is the 
criteria for the amount of press a system gets, then why is Windoze NT 
constantly in the news?

FreeBSD runs Linux binaries, so there's no point in porting to it. (IIRC, 
the FreeBSD people specifically state, "don't port to us, we'll just run 
the Linux binaries.)

FreeBSD is faster. FreeBSD has a lot of mature features that have been 
adapted by Linux. Most of the network-based innovations really came from 
BSD-based systems. After all, it's from which Unix-based networking got its 
start. The fact that FreeBSD can run Linux binaries is a testament to the 
technology of FreeBSD and the people in charge of putting it together. 
Think about it... an operating system that can run binaries from another? 
Gee... why can't Linux run *BSD binaries?

There are more people running Linux, so there's more support (and press, so 
new users are more likely to start with Linux, so there's more people using 

I love this type of argument! "There are more people running Linux..." 
brings about two questions:

So that makes Windoze the best OS on the market?? I guess 10,000 lemmings 
can't be wrong, eh? (my favorite)

The press comes from the story of Linux's beginnings and the marketing of 
Linux-based companies like Red Hat, Caldera, and SuSE. Then again, Micro
$oft generates more press than Linux could dream of (in the short term).

Sorry, the "popularity contest" is really not a good argument!

The hardware support isn't as nice. I've always wanted to try FreeBSD, but 
the only machine I had available barfed every time I tried putting FreeBSD 
on it (ran Linux fine.)

Really???? Until my 486DX/33 died, I had run both Red Hat 4.2 and FreeBSD 
on separate 1Gb IDE disks. The system ran like a champ! In fact, FreeBSD 
was installed, with one minor problem, via a ppp-link to ftp.freebsd.org. 
To be fair, the one problem was because of a quirk in the PPP link to my 
ISP (Netcom) and the "extensions" they added for Windoze-based connections. 
However, a quick note to the FreeBSD people and I had a new boot disk image 
the next day!

I have installed both systems using a CD-ROM (the last being Red Hat 5.0). 
Although I do have to admit that I might have a current preference for 
Linux, the FreeBSD install is far superior! It is better than Sun's install 
procedure the last being the X-based interface under Solaris 2.6). Solaris 
ranks as very good. FreeBSD's is excellent!!

NetBSD has almost as good an installation procedure as FreeBSD. I last 
tried it over a year ago on an old Sun 4/110 (an original SPARC-based 
system). I have never used OpenBSD.

There's probably others, but the bottom line is that *BSD is perfectly 
viable and supposedly well worth the effort. OTOH, if your Linux system 
does what you want, why change? I dumped windows because it was too 
unstable, too slow, and too expensive. Now I run Linux, which is rock-
solid, fast, and free. Can *BSD be rock-solider and freer? (Faster's not 
enough of a reason for me to look elsewhere, even if it were so.)

Even more solid and faster; benchmarks have borne this out.

One of the major reasons that *BSD is not as popular as Linux is because of 
what it emulates. From the beginning, Linux was programmed to be closer to 
POSIX-compliant and System V than the BSD-based systems. From a business 
point of view, if all your vendors are moving to System V (like Sun going 
from SunOS to Solaris), then running a BSD-based system seems not to make 
sense. So when the "free" Linux became available and was more System V 
compatible than FreeBSD, it was easier for the techies to justify Linux to 
management ("hey man, it's almost like our Sun!" :-).

Although both systems can pass POSIX compliance today, there are 
fundamental differences in the basis of how they work. There are 
differences in the kernel, system calls, libraries, system administration, 
among others. I am not going to say one is better than the other. However, 
as a long-time BSD biggot (since my days of using 4.1BSD on a VAX 11/780), 
I can say that I find the System V way of doing things a necessary pain in 
the rump!

I will give one "solid" opinion: If I had to choose one system that would 
act as my router, DNS, ftp server, e-mail gateway, firewall, web server, 
proxy server, etc., that system would run a BSD-based operating system. If 
I had to choose one system that would act as my desktop workstation, run X, 
all the application I like, etc., that system would run Linux. HOWEVER, I 
would have no problem running Linux as my work horse server or running the 
BSD-based system on my desktop.

BTW: After going through an installation of Caldera OpenLinux with Novell 
server support, I have a lot of respect for what they did. Caldera is a 
real nice package and worthy of checking out! 


> Date:        Wed, 28 Jan 2009 13:51:04 -0500 (EST)
> From:        Karen Lewellen <klewellen at shellworld.net>
> To:        Linux for blind general discussion <blinux-list at redhat.com>
> ReplyTo:    Linux for blind general discussion <blinux-list at redhat.com>
> Subject:    out of curiousity...
> And indeed I am just wondering.
> How does freebs really differ from more  i do not know traditional Linux
> distros like fedorah and debian?
> I understand there is a difference, but have never really heard what it
> is so to speak.
> Karen
> _______________________________________________
> Blinux-list mailing list
> Blinux-list at redhat.com
> https://www.redhat.com/mailman/listinfo/blinux-list

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