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It is true that AT&amp;T <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> is not open source, and in a copyright sense BSD is very definitely <emphasis>not</emphasis> <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark>, but on the other hand, AT&amp;T has imported sources from other projects, noticeably the Computer Sciences Research Group (CSRG) of the University of California in Berkeley, CA. Starting in 1976, the CSRG started releasing tapes of their software, calling them <emphasis>Berkeley Software Distribution</emphasis> or <emphasis>BSD</emphasis>.
Initial BSD releases consisted mainly of user programs, but that changed dramatically when the CSRG landed a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to upgrade the communications protocols on their network, ARPANET. The new protocols were known as the <emphasis>Internet Protocols</emphasis>, later <emphasis>TCP/IP</emphasis> after the most important protocols. The first widely distributed implementation was part of 4.2BSD, in 1982.
In the course of the 1980s, a number of new workstation companies sprang up. Many preferred to license <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> rather than developing operating systems for themselves. In particular, Sun Microsystems licensed <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> and implemented a version of 4.2BSD, which they called <trademark>SunOS</trademark>. When AT&amp;T themselves were allowed to sell <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> commercially, they started with a somewhat bare-bones implementation called System III, to be quickly followed by System V. The System V code base did not include networking, so all implementations included additional software from the BSD, including the TCP/IP software, but also utilities such as the <emphasis>csh</emphasis> shell and the <emphasis>vi</emphasis> editor. Collectively, these enhancements were known as the <emphasis>Berkeley Extensions</emphasis>.
The BSD tapes contained AT&amp;T source code and thus required a <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> source license. By 1990, the CSRG's funding was running out, and it faced closure. Some members of the group decided to release the BSD code, which was Open Source, without the AT&amp;T proprietary code. This finally happened with the <emphasis>Networking Tape 2</emphasis>, usually known as <emphasis>Net/2</emphasis>. Net/2 was not a complete operating system: about 20% of the kernel code was missing. One of the CSRG members, William F. Jolitz, wrote the remaining code and released it in early 1992 as <emphasis>386BSD</emphasis>. At the same time, another group of ex-CSRG members formed a commercial company called <link xlink:href="http://www.bsdi.com/">Berkeley Software Design Inc.</link> and released a beta version of an operating system called <link xlink:href="http://www.bsdi.com/">BSD/386</link>, which was based on the same sources. The name of the operating system was later changed to BSD/OS.
386BSD never became a stable operating system. Instead, two other projects split off from it in 1993: <link xlink:href="http://www.NetBSD.org/">NetBSD</link> and <link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/index.html">FreeBSD</link>. The two projects originally diverged due to differences in patience waiting for improvements to 386BSD: the NetBSD people started early in the year, and the first version of FreeBSD was not ready until the end of the year. In the meantime, the code base had diverged sufficiently to make it difficult to merge. In addition, the projects had different aims, as we will see below. In 1996, <link xlink:href="http://www.OpenBSD.org/">OpenBSD</link> split off from NetBSD, and in 2003, <link xlink:href="http://www.dragonflybsd.org/">DragonFlyBSD</link> split off from FreeBSD.
Why is BSD not better known?
For a number of reasons, BSD is relatively unknown:
The BSD developers are often more interested in polishing their code than marketing it.
Much of Linux's popularity is due to factors external to the Linux projects, such as the press, and to companies formed to provide Linux services. Until recently, the open source BSDs had no such proponents.
In 1992, AT&amp;T sued <link xlink:href="http://www.bsdi.com/">BSDI</link>, the vendor of BSD/386, alleging that the product contained AT&amp;T-copyrighted code. The case was settled out of court in 1994, but the spectre of the litigation continues to haunt people. In March 2000 an article published on the web claimed that the court case had been <quote>recently settled</quote>.
One detail that the lawsuit did clarify is the naming: in the 1980s, BSD was known as <quote>BSD <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark></quote>. With the elimination of the last vestige of AT&amp;T code from BSD, it also lost the right to the name <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark>. Thus you will see references in book titles to <quote>the 4.3BSD <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> operating system</quote> and <quote>the 4.4BSD operating system</quote>.
Comparing BSD and Linux
So what is really the difference between, say, Debian Linux and FreeBSD? For the average user, the difference is surprisingly small: Both are <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> like operating systems. Both are developed by non-commercial projects (this does not apply to many other Linux distributions, of course). In the following section, we will look at BSD and compare it to Linux. The description applies most closely to FreeBSD, which accounts for an estimated 80% of the BSD installations, but the differences from NetBSD, OpenBSD and DragonFlyBSD are small.
Who owns BSD?
No one person or corporation owns BSD. It is created and distributed by a community of highly technical and committed contributors all over the world. Some of the components of BSD are Open Source projects in their own right and managed by different project maintainers.
How is BSD developed and updated?
The BSD kernels are developed and updated following the Open Source development model. Each project maintains a publicly accessible <emphasis>source tree</emphasis> which contains all source files for the project, including documentation and other incidental files. Users can obtain a complete copy of any version.
A large number of developers worldwide contribute to improvements to BSD. They are divided into three kinds:
<firstterm>Contributors</firstterm> write code or documentation. They are not permitted to commit (add code) directly to the source tree. In order for their code to be included in the system, it must be reviewed and checked in by a registered developer, known as a <emphasis>committer</emphasis>.
<firstterm>Committers</firstterm> are developers with write access to the source tree. In order to become a committer, an individual must show ability in the area in which they are active.
It is at the individual committer's discretion whether they should obtain authority before committing changes to the source tree. In general, an experienced committer may make changes which are obviously correct without obtaining consensus. For example, a documentation project committer may correct typographical or grammatical errors without review. On the other hand, developers making far-reaching or complicated changes are expected to submit their changes for review before committing them. In extreme cases, a core team member with a function such as Principal Architect may order that changes be removed from the tree, a process known as <firstterm>backing out</firstterm>. All committers receive mail describing each individual commit, so it is not possible to commit secretly.
The <firstterm>Core team</firstterm>. FreeBSD and NetBSD each have a core team which manages the project. The core teams developed in the course of the projects, and their role is not always well-defined. It is not necessary to be a developer in order to be a core team member, though it is normal. The rules for the core team vary from one project to the other, but in general they have more say in the direction of the project than non-core team members have.
This arrangement differs from Linux in a number of ways:
No one person controls the content of the system. In practice, this difference is overrated, since the Principal Architect can require that code be backed out, and even in the Linux project several people are permitted to make changes.
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.

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Source string comment
(itstool) path: sect2/title
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read-only
Source string location
article.translate.xml:263
String age
a year ago
Source string age
a year ago
Translation file
articles/explaining-bsd.pot, string 46