Ramblings & ephemera

BSD vs. Linux

As a Linux user, I don’t have a lot of daily experience using BSD. Oh sure, I use it on a couple of servers that I rent, but I certainly have never used it on the desktop. And while I certainly understand the concepts, history, and ideas behind Linux very well (although there’s always more to learn), I don’t really know that much about BSD. So it was a delight to read BSD vs. Linux.

“It’s been my impression that the BSD communit{y,ies}, in general, understand Linux far better than the Linux communit{y,ies} understand BSD. I have a few theories on why that is, but that’s not really relevant. I think a lot of Linux people get turned off BSD because they don’t really understand how and why it’s put together. Thus, this rant; as a BSD person, I want to try to explain how BSD works in a way that Linux people can absorb.”

In particular, I thought the contrast between the non-unified nature of Linux and the unified nature of BSD was pretty darn fascinating. As the author points out, this is not to criticize Linux – it’s just the way it is. It’s not a value judgment. Here’s the author on BSD:

“By contrast, BSD has always had a centralized development model. There’s always been an entity that’s “in charge” of the system. BSD doesn’t use GNU ls or GNU libc, it uses BSD’s ls and BSD’s libc, which are direct descendents of the ls and libc that where in the CSRG-distributed BSD releases. They’ve never been developed or packaged independently. You can’t go ‘download BSD libc’ somewhere, because in the BSD world, libc by itself is meaningless. ls by itself is meaningless. The kernel by itself is meaningless. The system as a whole is one piece, not a bunch of little pieces.”

11 pages of really interesting, well-explained analysis. If you’re a Linux user, go read it. You’ll learn about the other great open source OS.

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