Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Outside Looking In: The BSD Operating Systems

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

A while back, someone asked me why the open-source BSD operating systems aren't as popular as Linux. It's a good question. Technically speaking, the BSDs are often every bit as good as Linux. Indeed, when it comes to security, OpenBSD is the best of breed.

Indeed, you can argue that BSD is actually more successful than Linux on the desktop. I'm referring, of course, to MacOS X, which is based on Darwin. Darwin, in turn, is built on top of Mach 3.0 operating-system services, which runs on top of the 4.4 BSD operating system.

However, developers usually see Darwin simply as the foundation for MacOS X and its Cocoa and Carbon toolkit-based application. Apple says it would like Darwin to become an operating system in its own right for both its native PowerPC and Intel's architectures. In practice, though, Darwin has made little progress as an independent operating system.

So why hasn't mainstream BSD become widely popular? The answer is that there is no mainstream BSD. Like the many Unixes of the past, it shot itself in the foot long ago by dividing into several different variants: SunOS, Wind River's BSD/OS, FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD. With five major forks, not counting Darwin, only SunOS, which became part of Solaris, has had great commercial success.

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