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BSD a better OS than Linux?


BSD is the software behind the world's most popular Web site and the world's most popular FTP site -- but unless you're a geek, you've never heard of it.

An open-source operating system like Linux, BSD was developed in the 1970s at the University of California-Berkeley, well before Linus Torvalds ever took a computer course. So why was it Linux that captured mindshare and public imagination? BSD's obscurity is just part of the reason it is now considered cooler than Linux among the geekiest geeks. But the software some say is the most secure operating system in the world may be poised to make a Linux-like leap to the forefront.

The list of big-name companies and Web sites that use BSD is impressive. Yahoo, UUNet, Mindspring and Compuserve are on the list - in fact, perhaps 70 percent of all Internet service providers use BSD. Also on the list - Walnut Creek CDROM Inc. and its CD-ROM FTP download site, which the company says delivers more than 1 terabyte of data to visitors every day. Microsoft's free e-mail service Hotmail began its life on BSD servers, and Apple announced in June its next operating system will be based on BSD. (Microsoft is a partner in MSNBC.)

Enamored with Linux
So why is Linux on everyone's lips, and why are there about 10 times as many Linux users as BSD users? After all, they are both free operating systems that offer free source code - and BSD had quite a head start.

Legal troubles tell part of the story. Right as the Internal began to reach critical mass, in 1993, the BSD movement was hit by a copyright lawsuit from AT&T, which still owned the rights to Unix. At the same time, Torvalds was welcoming help from all comers, mainly young computer science students enamored of with the coming information explosion.

There are other reasons - much effort has been put into making Linux user-friendly enough for use as a desktop operating system. BSD groups have focused on servers, never putting much work into appealing to a mass market.

But that doesn't mean there's not some obvious jealousy that the new Unix on the block has gotten all the attention.

"In late 1991 there were 100 programmers on UseNet producing improvements for (BSD)," said Wes Peters, a BSD user from the beginning. "If not for the AT&T lawsuit at the worst moment.... Because of that, people said, 'I don't want to go with BSD now.' That was the time Linux was gaining functionality."

Class warfare?
Talk to BSD users, and a quiet but clear sense of superiority comes through. BSD users, they say, tend to have computer science degrees, hold management positions and have 10 years or more experience in the field. Linux users, on the other hand, are young hackers doing impressive work but motivated in part by having too much free time.

"BSD has been where it's happening in computer science research for 20 years," Peters said. "It still hasn't lost that cachet."

Do you doubt that this has all the makings of a good old-fashioned computer science religious war? Ask Peters, who wrote an article for online magazine earlier this month. His even-tempered prose spurred a thread 600 messages long on geek news site

When the best, brightest and most suspicious minds from the computer industry gathered in Las Vegas for the DEF CON trade show earlier this month, Linux-taunting by BSD sophisticates wasn't at all subtle. And when one speaker announced that BSD CD-ROMs were being given away at the show, but Red Hat had declined to give away Linux CDs, there was outright jeering. Has Linux has become too mainstream and lost its appeal among "Ubergeeks"?

"That stuff will always be out there," said Red Hat spokeswoman Melissa London. "I like the old U2 albums, and after some of their newer stuff came out, I liked U2 less."

She was surprised to hear Red Hat declined the DEF CON opportunity, saying her company regularly distributes free CD-ROMs.

BSD was already a mature operating system with four different flavors when Linus Torvalds wrote the first line of Linux code. A direct descendant of the Unix operating system, BSD (which stands for Berkeley Software Design) dates back to work done by Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy to create the first free version of Unix when he was at Berkeley in the late 1970s. Later a group of Berkeley computer scientists added to his work, eventually beginning a project called 386BSD designed to rewrite Unix so it could be used on a PC with Intel chips. After Berkeley stopped funding the effort, BSD split off in several directions.

* The NetBSD group, which focused on creating an OS that could run on any hardware - PCs, Macs, HP servers, Ataris, etc.

* The FreeBSD group, which optimizes BSD for Intel chips.

* The OpenBSD group, which did a line-by-line security audit of BSD code, and now has what is widely regarded as the most secure OS available.

* And BSDi, the Red Hat of BSD. It's a commercial venture started by some of the original Berkeley crowd that sells BSD and supports the product.

Requirements for success
Despite its dominance in the niche ISP market and its attractiveness as a server product, BSD remains a silent member of the Internet's moving forces. Major PC vendors such as Dell will sell you a laptop with Linux; they won't sell you any PC with BSD. There are also precious few applications for BSD.

All that will soon change, some say.

"Your readers will hear about it," said Stephen Diercouff, who publishes "The emphasis has been on servers, but BSDi is moving into desktops.... And if one of the database vendors released a database that ran on BSD, you'd see a huge market share jump. I know there have been discussions with Oracle, Informix and Sybase."

Oracle, for the moment, isn't interested. "We have not had sufficient demand," said Jeremy Burton, Oracle's vice president of server marketing.

No matter, says Diercouff. Soon, the various BSD distributions will be able to run Linux applications, including office productivity suites such as StarOffice.

Rose says BSD could make even a larger impact in so-called "Internet appliances" - function-specific devices such as TV set-top boxes or Internet routers, where simple, streamlined operating systems are required

Better than Linux?
There is one significant difference between Linux and the flavors of BSD, according to BSDi spokesman Kevin Rose. Linux development is restrained by the so-called "copyleft" general public license (GPL). Any programmer who modifies the Linux kernel must make the source code available to the Linux community. BSD is not bound by the agreement - therefore, entrepreneurial-minded developers will stay away from Linux, he predicts.

"You have to give up your intellectual property to your competitors," he said. "The OS itself is not going to see a great deal of innovation because there's just no economic incentive to do so."

Other BSD supporters make a quite different argument - it's the frenetic pace of innovation by Linux developers that makes the OS hard to pin down and hard for companies to use on mission-critical hardware. BSD is a much more mature OS with far fewer updates, they say. All that makes FreeBSD user Matthew Fuller shrug at the religious argument.

"There's a lot of things that Linux is 'better' at, and a lot of things FreeBSD is 'better' at, and a lot of those things can easily fluctuate on a daily or weekly basis," said Fuller, who maintains a Linux vs. BSD Web page. "Thus, any definitive narrow statement that can be made is usually obsolete before anyone hears it."

gh0stface wrote:
If you are going to copy and paste, please use the quote tag and give credit where it is due.
I don't think there's much to choose between [Free|Open|Net]BSD and Linux. They are both Unix-like, so there is little difference from a user's POV. Also, the userland programs are pretty much the same - running KDE, for example, on *BSD is fairly common AFAIK.
Arno v. Lumig
Except for the support, BSD is truly superior. It is faster, more stable and more secure then Linux, and nearly all all GNU software is available for BSD too.
{name here}
Linux is more consumer oriented at this point, and the kernel itself has taken ideas from Plan 9 and other Unix-like OSes. In some technical ways, it has superiority. It's big disadvantage is every program has to be compiled for each fork of the kernel - the variation between distrobutions is inconsistent.

However, BSD does have a trump card over Linux, and that trump card is its stability and consistency. Even releases of kernels deemed unstable can be used without worry. The problem with it is that BSD is more oriented toward Unix people - compilation of programs is more dominant than 1-2-3 install packaging systems.
A true *NIX supporter knows that BSD distros were build with 2 things in mind:


The people behind it concentrated so much on these 2 ideas that they even overlooked other aspects. When it comes to the truth: yeah, it kicks Linux's ass... It's faster, the networking dedicated part of the OS is the most powerful in the world. And the security? Well, it's unbeaten.
Also, PF (Packet Filter) it a lot more flexible and powerful than NetFilter (IpTables).
I think it probably depends on what you need - as BlueVD said, the security and networking is so strong that some other aspects have been overlooked. So if you want excellent security and networking, go for *BSD; if you want an all-round reasonably simple *nix to work on, go for Linux.
Considering security point, BSD surely does have a hand over linux kernel. And almost all GNU software is available for BSD too. Smile
sasofttech wrote:
Apple announced in June its next operating system will be based on BSD. (Microsoft is a partner in MSNBC.)

Does this mean it will no longer be a UNIX based system?
The OS's that run on Mac's have always been UNIX based. And BSD is a UNIX based os. It does come a long way since the start, but it's still UNIX.
As to the choice UNIX vs. LINUX...
When you have to pick one think about the following:

  • Is the box going to be a router? If so, how many clients is it going to server? More than 300 means you need UNIX (for some good speed)
  • Is the box for personal use? Like a workstation? Go for Linux (it's easier)
  • Is the box going to be a webserver? If yes, how many sites and what services will it run? Apache, Named, FTP daemons, and more than 500 sites with a high hit count? Go for UNIX, otherwise stick to Linux.
There are a lot of other criteria that you should base you pick on, but the ones from above should be enough since not many of you will even have to set up a box like that.
One more neat think not mentioned by many people: BSD (and Unix systems in general) tend to cut down the prices for a box. They are so well optimized that comparing to a Linux system, they can run and provide the same services at the same quality using fewer resources.
(Take my ex mail server: Sun Ultra 450 Enterprise: it had 2 procs (Ultra Sparc2, 400 mHz each) and 256 mb Ram. The hdd was SCSI though. Anyway, it server around 5000 emails per day. I moved th email server to a Dual Intel Tualatin (each proc had 900 mHz) with 2.5 gb ram. The webserver just couldn't face the traffic. It ran a FC4 compared to Solaris 10.0 The Mail Transport agent was the same, as to all the software involved in the manipulating of the emails like spam annalizers and such. And also consider that I had to compile software for Solaris that was meant for Linux, so saying that the soft was optimized for Solaris doesn't stick).
This is a nice pic that shows the evolution of UNIX and UNIX based systems.
Note that Minix and Linux ar separated since they are Unix-like systems, not Unix based ones.
These days the meaning of the term UNIX is somewhat blurred. I believe the current recommendation is to use the name of the specific Unix or Unix-like you are talking about (eg Linux, FreeBSD, HP-UX etc), or to say *nix as a catch-all to mean any Unix or Unix-like. To say that Linux is not Unix is strictly correct, although it would be included under the umbrella of *unix.
qscomputing wrote:
I think it probably depends on what you need - as BlueVD said, the security and networking is so strong that some other aspects have been overlooked. So if you want excellent security and networking, go for *BSD; if you want an all-round reasonably simple *nix to work on, go for Linux.

qscomputing has touched the main point: it depends on what are your needs. The perfect OS does not exist, you have to find out your needs before asking the question about which one is the best OS.

If you have strong requirements for network security and robustness, then probably *BSD is your choice. If you ask for more flexibility of use and hardware support, then probably is Linux.

Just my 2 cents.
Studio Madcrow
FreeBSD is probably "better designed" at the kernel level than Linux and has even been made into a pretty decent Desktop OS (just look up "PC-BSD" and be amazed) but in general, it still lags behind Linux in terms of hardware support, so I would say that Linux is still better for general use, because it's more likely that you'll actually be able to use it on whatever hardware you have lying around.
{name here}
garionw wrote:
sasofttech wrote:
Apple announced in June its next operating system will be based on BSD. (Microsoft is a partner in MSNBC.)

Does this mean it will no longer be a UNIX based system?

OS X is already based on a modified BSD kernel.
more stable and more secure , realy "the power to serve ! "
I have heard that BSD is more stable and secure.
I'm currently using both BSD and Linux.
I find BSD comparatively faster in usage.
However, Linux seems more easy to using.
Installing ports or packages in BSD is confusing to me.
More BSD doesn't detect NTFS,FAT or EXT automatically[i mean by default]

I would vote for LINUX .
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