Differentiating Among BSD Distros Page 2


FreeBSD came to be one of the most popular BSD revisions after its early release through Walnut Creek CD-ROM, an early pioneer in distributing free and open source software on CD before the explosion of the Internet. Its primary platform is the x86 PC, including the current AMD and Intel 64-bit variants, though it also has a presence on Sun's SPARC platform.

BSD History
Common Features
Mac OS X
Choosing a Desktop Solution
Choosing a Server Solution

The main focus for FreeBSD is performance, particularly of the TCP/IP stack with a number of companies, including Yahoo, using FreeBSD as an Internet server platform. FreeBSD holds the unofficial record for transferring data, having achieved more than 2 Terabytes of data from one server running the OS. It follows from this statistic that FreeBSD is also one of the most stable OSes available.

The developers of FreeBSD put a lot of effort into making the system as easy to use as possible. Thus, FreeBSD has one of the easiest installs of all the Unix platforms. Once the system has been installed, you can easily download, compile, and install additional packages through the built-in ports system, a third-party solution that automates the process. The Ports Collection downloads the necessary files, checks the files for integrity, builds the application, and then installs the application. This simplifies one of the most time-consuming aspects of deploying applications to different computers.

FreeBSD at a Glance

Home Page http://www.freebsd.org/
Platforms i386, Alpha, IA-64, AMD64, and UltraSPARC
Original Release December 1993
Focus High performance computing, ease of use, and stability


NetBSD was released a few months before FreeBSD. Unlike FreeBSD, which concentrated on the performance and best-quality support for its main target platform, NetBSD was developed to support as wide a platform base as possible. It would be difficult to list all available versions of NetBSD, but it runs on more than 50 platforms, from mainstream ones, such as x86 and SPARC, to niche products like Sega's Dreamcast and a number of hobbyist, handheld, and embedded devices.

This portability gives NetBSD an edge. Although it gives the OS an air of disparity, the reality is different. The variety of platforms supported means the code is efficient and secure, with a wide range of experience that improves the OS as a whole.

The range of support also means NetBSD runs on much more powerful hardware than is supported by other distributions. Higher-end dedicated Unix workstations from Sun, Hewlett-Packard, and the old Digital/Compaq Alpha platform can be used with NetBSD to provide all of the stability and performance of the BSD platform while giving a new lease of life to older available hardware.

The portability is also a major attraction as a deployment and re-development choice for those building their own computers, or using one of the many embedded hardware solutions. This keeps NetBSD as a popular choice in universities and science labs.

NetBSD at a Glance

Home Page http://www.netbsd.org/
Platforms Just about all
Original Release December 1993
FocusPortability and stability

>> OpenBSD, Mac OS X

This article was originally published on Aug 10, 2004
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