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12. 4.4 BSD Lite-based Operating Systems

Aside from Linux, the other major "family" of Unix-like operating systems is the somewhat fragmented family based on the 4.4 BSD "Lite" release from University of California.

Had this code base been released to the world somewhat sooner, and the mixture of personalities been somewhat less volatile, Linux might well have been still-born, and people would be using some form of "BSDix" instead. Linus Torvalds has been quoted as saying that had 386BSD been available at the time, he would not have started building Linux. It is certainly the case that BSD code has strongly influenced the implementations of TCP/IP implementations on all sorts of platforms, free as well as commercial.

These OSes tended in the past to be somewhat more stable than Linux, although the current situation is far more arguable. Network code in the BSD variants was traditionally much better than that in Linux, but this is far less true now as Linux users and developers have taken great interest in networking, and have greatly improved Linux code quality. They are probably still superior nonetheless for people with heavy server requirements, e.g. heavily loaded news, web, or database servers. There may remain some differences in code quality, but the differences are far less significant than they used to be.

12.1. Which is better? Linux or *BSD?

There are periodic "wars" as to which of these OSes (Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD) is the "best." Technical criticisms are often based on problems in ancient versions that have since been partially or fully fixed. In my (theoretically humble) opinion, the following points would be worth considering:

The more severe disagreements tend to surround which license the disputant prefers to despise. Such disputes tend to go around in circles due to the arguers choosing to pick on the licenses for expressing differing "ethics" surrounding the sharing of software when what they probably should be picking on is the ethics themselves.

12.2. Less Serious Comparisons...

Less important differences between Linux and *BSD...

12.3. More about BSD

The really notable things about FreeBSD relate to the ability to do a make world whereby you compile, locally, the entire source code for the base operating system and utilities, as well as using the Ports collection whereby to build and install (say) The clisp Common Lisp implementation, you might use the command: cd /usr/ports/lang/clisp ; make install .

Interim results are all visible locally; all of these installation aspects function via ordinary makefiles.

Ports and make world have become available on the other free BSD implementations, but the pioneering work was largely on FreeBSD.


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