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As the BSD projects (FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD) have grown in size, a number of persistent myths have grown up around them. Some of these are perpetuated by well meaning but misguided individuals, others by people pursuing their own agendas.

This page aims to dispel those myths while remaining as dispassionate as possible.

Note: Throughout this page, ``*BSD'' refers to all three of the BSD Projects. Where a myth or response is specific to a particular project it is indicated as such.
If you are aware of an ommission or error on this page, please let the maintainer, Nik Clayton <nik@FreeBSD.ORG> know.



*BSD has a closed development model, it's more ``Cathedral'' than ``Bazaar''

Eric Raymond wrote an influential paper, ``The Cathedral and the Bazaar'' in which the Linux development model (and the model Eric used for fetchmail) is held up as an example of how to do ``open'' development. By contrast, the model employed by *BSD is often characterised as closed.

The implicit value judgement is that ``bazaar'' (open) is good, and ``cathedral'' (closed) is bad.

If anything, *BSD's development model is probably more akin to the ``bazaar'' that Eric describes than either Linux or fetchmail.

Consider the following;

Also, see this article written by Jordan Hubbard in Performance Computing, titled What is FreeBSD?

You can't make your own distributions or derivative works of *BSD

You can. You just need to say in the documentation and source files where the code is derived from.

For example, PicoBSD is a tailored distribution of FreeBSD that fits on a floppy. It's great for turning a diskless 386 PC into a router or a network print server.

The Whistle Interjet is a ``network appliance'' that acts as a router, web server, mailhost (and other functionality), can can be configured using a web browser. The underlying operating system is FreeBSD, and Whistle have contributed many of their code enhancements back to the FreeBSD project (while keeping enough of them proprietry that they can stay in business).

The OpenBSD project started as a spinoff from the NetBSD project, and has since evolved its own distinctive approach.

*BSD makes a great server, but a poor (Unix) desktop

*BSD makes a great server. It also makes a great desktop. Many of the requirements for a server (responsiveness under load, stability, effective use of system resources) are the same requirements as for a desktop machine.

*BSD has access to the same desktop tools (KDE, GNOME, windowmanagers) as Linux. And ``office'' applications such as WordPerfect or StarOffice work under BSD's Linux emulation layer.

The BSD codebase is old, outdated, and dieing

While the BSD codebase may be more than 20 years old, it is neither outdated or dieing.

Technological enhancements continue to be added to *BSD, including, but not limited to;

The *BSD projects are at war with one another, splinter groups form each week

No. While occasional advocacy may get a touch heated, the *BSD flavours continue to work with one another. FreeBSD's Alpha port was initially heavily based on the work done by the NetBSD team. Both NetBSD and OpenBSD used the FreeBSD ports collection to bootstrap their own port sets. FreeBSD and NetBSD both integrate security fixes first discovered by the OpenBSD team.

This cooperation extends to the commercial company BSDi, who graciously donated their DOS emulation layer to FreeBSD.

The FreeBSD and NetBSD projects seperated more than five years ago. OpenBSD is the only new BSD project to split off in the last five years.

The *BSD projects cooperate in other areas as well. For example, the monthly publication DaemonNews is a collaborative effort by members of all three projects.

You can't cluster *BSD systems (parallel computing)

The following URLs all disprove this;

There's no commercial support for *BSD

FreeBSD: The FreeBSD Commercial Consulting Page lists companies that offer commercial support for FreeBSD. The FreeBSD Mall also offer commercial support.

OpenBSD: The OpenBSD Commercial Consulting Page lists companies that offer commercial support for OpenBSD.

There are no applications for *BSD

The free software community started running on predominantly BSD systems(SunOS and similar). *BSD users can generally compile software written for these systems without needing to make any changes.

In addition, each *BSD project uses a ``ports'' system to make the building of ported software much easier.

FreeBSD: There are currently slightly more than 1,800 applications ready to download and install in the FreeBSD ports collection. The Linux emulation layer will also run the vast majority of i386 Linux applications.

NetBSD: The Linux emulation layer will run the vast majority of i386 Linux applications, and the majority of SunOS4 applications can be run on a SPARCStation.

OpenBSD: There are currently slightly more than 400 applications ready to download and install in the OpenBSD ports collection. The Linux emulation layer will also run the vast majority of i386 Linux applications, and the majority of SunOS4 applications can be run on a SPARCStation.

Both NetBSD and OpenBSD are able to use applications in FreeBSD's ports collection with minimal effort. Their lower number of ported applications reflects this.

It is true that most companies when porting to PC Unix will choose Linux first. Fortunately, *BSD's Linux emulation layer will run these programs (Mathematica, WordPerfect, StarOffice, Quake, Doom, ...) with few, if any, problems.

As a historical note, the first version of Netscape Navigator that ran on FreeBSD with Java support was the Linux version. Now, of course, Netscape have produced a FreeBSD native binary (and have done for some time).

*BSD uses the a.out executable format, which is outdated technology

FreeBSD: Until recently (September 1998) FreeBSD used the a.out format by default. There were no pressing reasons to switch earlier. In particular, FreeBSD did not (and does not) have the problems building shared libraries that spurred the Linux conversion from a.out to ELF. As of FreeBSD version 3.0, FreeBSD uses the ELF executable format.

*BSD is better than (some other system)


(some other system) is better than *BSD



Members of the FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD projects have contributed to this page;

Nik Clayton <nik@FreeBSD.ORG> Jordan Hubbard <jkh@FreeBSD.ORG>
Ian F. Darwin <> Adrian Filipi-Martin <>

Copyright © 1995-1998 FreeBSD Inc. All rights reserved.