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It is difficult to categorize the goals of each project: the differences are very subjective. Basically,
FreeBSD aims for high performance and ease of use by end users, and is a favourite of web content providers. It runs on a <link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/platforms/">number of platforms</link> and has significantly more users than the other projects.
NetBSD aims for maximum portability: <quote>of course it runs NetBSD</quote>. It runs on machines from palmtops to large servers, and has even been used on NASA space missions. It is a particularly good choice for running on old non-<trademark class="registered">Intel</trademark> hardware.
OpenBSD aims for security and code purity: it uses a combination of the open source concept and rigorous code reviews to create a system which is demonstrably correct, making it the choice of security-conscious organizations such as banks, stock exchanges and US Government departments. Like NetBSD, it runs on a number of platforms.
DragonFlyBSD aims for high performance and scalability under everything from a single-node UP system to a massively clustered system. DragonFlyBSD has several long-range technical goals, but focus lies on providing a SMP-capable infrastructure that is easy to understand, maintain and develop for.
There are also two additional BSD <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> operating systems which are not open source, BSD/OS and Apple's <trademark class="registered">Mac OS</trademark> X:
BSD/OS was the oldest of the 4.4BSD derivatives. It was not open source, though source code licenses were available at relatively low cost. It resembled FreeBSD in many ways. Two years after the acquisition of BSDi by Wind River Systems, BSD/OS failed to survive as an independent product. Support and source code may still be available from Wind River, but all new development is focused on the VxWorks embedded operating system.
<link xlink:href=""><trademark class="registered">Mac OS</trademark> X</link> is the latest version of the operating system for <trademark class="registered">Apple</trademark>'s <trademark class="registered">Mac</trademark> line. The BSD core of this operating system, <link xlink:href="">Darwin</link>, is available as a fully functional open source operating system for x86 and PPC computers. The Aqua/Quartz graphics system and many other proprietary aspects of <trademark class="registered">Mac OS</trademark> X remain closed-source, however. Several Darwin developers are also FreeBSD committers, and vice-versa.
How does the BSD license differ from the GNU Public license?
Linux is available under the <link xlink:href="">GNU General Public License</link> (GPL), which is designed to eliminate closed source software. In particular, any derivative work of a product released under the GPL must also be supplied with source code if requested. By contrast, the <link xlink:href="">BSD license</link> is less restrictive: binary-only distributions are allowed. This is particularly attractive for embedded applications.
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