[plug] What are the real differences between Linux and FreeBSD?

Christian christian at global.net.au
Fri Jan 7 10:38:53 WST 2000

Tamara Thompson wrote:
> I've heard all the opinions, but does anybody have an objective list of differences between Linux and FreeBSD?

I don't think I'm that biased so I'll offer my opinion:

1.  Linux developers tend to take more risks than BSD developers, BSD
developers are usually a little more careful and FreeBSD is generally
regarded as being more stable than Linux.  Because of this it is
probably a little more secure (although the differences lie largely in
configuration).  OpenBSD on the other hand is widely regarded as the
most secure general purpose operating system going around and my own
research agrees with this.

2.  Linux supports more hardware I believe although FreeBSD in
particular is pretty good.  OpenBSD (which I know you didn't ask about
specifically...) isn't anywhere near as good as Linux in terms of
hardware support and I think NetBSD is slightly better but still not

3.  Different licenses and ideologies: the BSD license allows the code
to be made proprietary so long as credit is given whereas the GPL
prevents this.  Thus, BSD code can be "borrowed" by Linux developers but
not vice versa. :-)  This irritates the hell out of most BSD developers
(probably quite understandably).

4.  FreeBSD (although the most popular of the BSD variants) is not as
widely used or known as Linux.  This might suggest less software and
less support although this isn't necessarily a big deal what with major
similarities and pretty good emulation software.

5.  Ease of use: Linux is generally much easier to use (although a lot
of this is of course dependent on installed software).  I haven't got
around to installing FreeBSD but the OpenBSD install is regarded by some
as a "filter" to keep users out who simply aren't up to managing the
system.  Having said that, the instructions for it were very good and
you begin to enjoy the elegance of simplicity after a while.

6.  Package management: BSD people would probably disagree but I think
Linux's package management (whatever that is!) is a huge advantage to
the system.  I'm not exactly sure of the differences between Free and
OpenBSD but, for example, Debian's package management is *far* superior
to OpenBSD's.  Upgrading between multiple Debian versions is easy and
very likely incident free whereas, for comparison, the official
recommendation in upgrading from OpenBSD 2.5 to 2.6 was to wipe
everything and start over.  The BSD port system is kinda cool but
Debian's APT is still far better.

7.  Order: BSD is a ver orderly system whereas Linux is quite chaotic. 
For example, a "Linux" system might be the Linux kernel, plus the GNU
utilities, plus some BSD-derived utilities, plus XFree86, plus some
distribution-specific programs, plus anything else that happens to have
been included (possibly the result of many hundreds of individual
authors and maintainers).  The base BSD system is from BSD and BSD alone
which gives more control and order.  Of course, this isn't necessarily a
huge problem with Linux.

8.  Documentation: BSD documentation is generally better than Linux's. 
Want to find out how a driver works?  In BSD there is a manual page, in
Linux you can go searching through /usr/src/linux/Documentation/*,
manual pages and AltaVista without necessarily finding the answer.

9. Simplicity and elegance: Once again not being overly familiar with
FreeBSD I'm going to refer to OpenBSD.  After installing OpenBSD one
thing that really impressed me was the feeling of simplicity and
elegance.  The system felt compact, functional and powerful -- I can't
really explain it better than that, it just felt *good*.  <bad
analogy>Installing Linux feels like picking up a pair of cheap $10
sunnies and slapping them on your face.  Sure, they do the job but... 
BSD feels like picking up a pair of $200 RayBans  It just felt like
quality.</bad analogy> 

10.  Cool functionality: Both systems have some really cool features
that you immediately miss upon changing from one to the other.

11.  Attitude: Linux people are generally more helpful, more polite and
nicer than BSD people.  A *lot* of BSD people are extremely arrogant and
unhelpful whereas Linux people are just generally more fun! :-)  Of
course, there are plenty of nice BSDers too but my experience is that
far too many have a huge chip on their shoulder because Linux is more
popular than their system, even though theirs has been around much
longer.  I've seen many times where a Linux-user/BSD-newbie comes on a
BSD list and generally bad-mouths Linux in order to ingraciate
themselves and try and get help.  It's sad but (in my opinion) it's true
that BSD people are often too proud to truly cooperate with the Linux
community.  There's also a lot of residual angst between the different
BSD groups (Open, Free, Net) left over from splits that occurred many
years ago.  In general Linux users tend to be more accepting of BSD and
will often help port the software that they write over to that system. 
Hopefully one day all the camps can accept one another, cooperate and
bring benefits to everyone.

Anyway, I hope this helps...  As I said before, this is all my opinion
which is based on my own experiences and, I think, fairly unbiased.



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