Differentiating Among BSD Distros Page 3

By Martin Brown (Send Email)
Posted Aug 10, 2004


OpenBSD

OpenBSD was developed by Theo de Raadt after a disagreement over the future of the NetBSD code. OpenBSD development began by focusing on producing an incredibly secure OS, and it's an approach that continues to this day.

Contents
BSD History
Common Features
FreeBSD
NetBSD
OpenBSD
Mac OS X
Choosing a Desktop Solution
Choosing a Server Solution

Unlike other BSD variants, and most Unix flavors, OpenBSD is installed with everything but the absolutely essential services disabled. Users used to having NFS, Telnet, finger, FTP and other features running out of the box on a Linux installation will find they have to specifically enable, rather than disable, these services on OpenBSD. OpenBSD was designed this way to eliminate the possibility of these 'accidentally' being open and therefore causing a potential security breach.

OpenBSD also includes a range of built-in cryptography standards, such as RSA, Blowfish, DES, and full support for the IPSec TCP/IP security system. Cryptographic support is further enhanced with support of a number of hardware accelerators, including many of the third-party PCI cards and support for newer systems, such as the Random Number Generator and Advanced Encryption Standard built into the latest VIA C3-series CPUs. OpenBSD is well suited for use in a network router, firewall, and secure Internet service solution because of its high level of built-in security and encryption.

OpenBSD's overall security is further enhanced by a strict method of code testing and auditing. The code has been examined, virtually line by line, to find potential faults in the system. Thus, gaps in the OS, both real and potential, are plugged before they can be used and exploited.

The result — an OS that for years has not had a remote-root exploit of the type often found on other operating systems.

OpenBSD at a Glance

Home Page http://www.openbsd.org/
Platforms i386, Alpha, AMD64, sparc, sparc64, hp300, hppa, mac68k, macppc, mvme68k, mvme88k, and vax
Original ReleaseNovember 1995
FocusSecurity and code purity

Mac OS X

Darwin, the kernel on which Mac OS X is based, is itself based on the FreeBSD code with a custom Mac kernel in place of the standard BSD kernel. Darwin's main focus is to provide the base on which the rest of the Mac OS X environment runs. Although Darwin is not designed as an alternative to other BSD offerings, it does have a place in the BSD space.

Most users logging in remotely to an OS X machine would hardly notice a difference in the environment if they didn't look around too closely. The same utilities and environment are available as within a genuine FreeBSD environment.

The Darwin project is completely open source, Apple makes the system and source code available online, and changes to the Darwin code are rolled back into the FreeBSD source tree. Darwin is supported on both the PowerPC and x86 platforms, which often surprises people.

Where Darwin differs from the three other distros is that it forms the base of the Mac OS X operating system. A proprietary suite of tools and a user environment (Aqua) built on top of the Darwin core provide a user interface not vastly different from the Mac OS 9 and earlier interfaces for which Apple is famous. It is through Aqua that the majority of custom and commercial applications, including Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Microsoft Office are made available.

Despite the additional applications and interface options supported by Aqua and Mac OS X as a whole, underneath, the FreeBSD core is always available. You can open a shell interface through the Terminal application; there is support for X Windows System based applications; and you still have access to Perl, Python, MySQL, Apache, and any other Unix-compatible tools.

The Darwin core is an open source project, with Apple and members of the Darwin community enhancing the Darwin code and extending the operation and functionality of the system. Ultimately, any changes made in Darwin make their way into other parts of the BSD family. Apple is also helping to support the BSD community as a whole, so improvements to the BSD platform flow freely between the Apple and community camps.

Darwin/OS X at a Glance

Home Pagehttp://developer.apple.com/darwin/
Platformsx86 (Darwin only) and Mac (Darwin+OS X)
Original ReleaseMarch 1999
FocusEase of use

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