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On the other hand, there <emphasis>is</emphasis> a central repository, a single place where you can find the entire operating system sources, including all older versions.
BSD projects maintain the entire <quote>Operating System</quote>, not only the kernel. This distinction is only marginally useful: neither BSD nor Linux is useful without applications. The applications used under BSD are frequently the same as the applications used under Linux.
As a result of the formalized maintenance of a single SVN source tree, BSD development is clear, and it is possible to access any version of the system by release number or by date. SVN also allows incremental updates to the system: for example, the FreeBSD repository is updated about 100 times a day. Most of these changes are small.
BSD releases
FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD provide the system in three different <quote>releases</quote>. As with Linux, releases are assigned a number such as 1.4.1 or 3.5. In addition, the version number has a suffix indicating its purpose:
The development version of the system is called <firstterm>CURRENT</firstterm>. FreeBSD assigns a number to CURRENT, for example FreeBSD 5.0-CURRENT. NetBSD uses a slightly different naming scheme and appends a single-letter suffix which indicates changes in the internal interfaces, for example NetBSD 1.4.3G. OpenBSD does not assign a number (<quote>OpenBSD-current</quote>). All new development on the system goes into this branch.
At regular intervals, between two and four times a year, the projects bring out a <firstterm>RELEASE</firstterm> version of the system, which is available on CD-ROM and for free download from FTP sites, for example OpenBSD 2.6-RELEASE or NetBSD 1.4-RELEASE. The RELEASE version is intended for end users and is the normal version of the system. NetBSD also provides <emphasis>patch releases</emphasis> with a third digit, for example NetBSD 1.4.2.
As bugs are found in a RELEASE version, they are fixed, and the fixes are added to the SVN tree. In FreeBSD, the resultant version is called the <firstterm>STABLE</firstterm> version, while in NetBSD and OpenBSD it continues to be called the RELEASE version. Smaller new features can also be added to this branch after a period of test in the CURRENT branch. Security and other important bug fixes are also applied to all supported RELEASE versions.
<emphasis>By contrast, Linux maintains two separate code trees: the stable version and the development version. Stable versions have an even minor version number, such as 2.0, 2.2 or 2.4. Development versions have an odd minor version number, such as 2.1, 2.3 or 2.5. In each case, the number is followed by a further number designating the exact release. In addition, each vendor adds their own userland programs and utilities, so the name of the distribution is also important. Each distribution vendor also assigns version numbers to the distribution, so a complete description might be something like <quote>TurboLinux 6.0 with kernel 2.2.14</quote></emphasis>
What versions of BSD are available?
In contrast to the numerous Linux distributions, there are only four major open source BSDs. Each BSD project maintains its own source tree and its own kernel. In practice, though, there appear to be fewer divergences between the userland code of the projects than there is in Linux.
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="http://www.apple.com/macosx/server/"><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="http://developer.apple.com/darwin/">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="http://www.fsf.org/copyleft/gpl.html">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="http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license.html">BSD license</link> is less restrictive: binary-only distributions are allowed. This is particularly attractive for embedded applications.
What else should I know?
Since fewer applications are available for BSD than Linux, the BSD developers created a Linux compatibility package, which allows Linux programs to run under BSD. The package includes both kernel modifications, in order to correctly perform Linux system calls, and Linux compatibility files such as the C library. There is no noticeable difference in execution speed between a Linux application running on a Linux machine and a Linux application running on a BSD machine of the same speed.
The <quote>all from one supplier</quote> nature of BSD means that upgrades are much easier to handle than is frequently the case with Linux. BSD handles library version upgrades by providing compatibility modules for earlier library versions, so it is possible to run binaries which are several years old with no problems.
Which should I use, BSD or Linux?
What does this all mean in practice? Who should use BSD, who should use Linux?
This is a very difficult question to answer. Here are some guidelines:
<quote>If it ain't broke, don't fix it</quote>: If you already use an open source operating system, and you are happy with it, there is probably no good reason to change.
BSD systems, in particular FreeBSD, can have notably higher performance than Linux. But this is not across the board. In many cases, there is little or no difference in performance. In some cases, Linux may perform better than FreeBSD.
In general, BSD systems have a better reputation for reliability, mainly as a result of the more mature code base.
BSD projects have a better reputation for the quality and completeness of their documentation. The various documentation projects aim to provide actively updated documentation, in many languages, and covering all aspects of the system.

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