The Free Software Magazine has published today an article explaining the main differences between FreeBSD and GNU/Linux. This article is especially interesting for those who are (fairly) new to BSD and/or Linux.
GNU/Linux is the most popular operating system built with free/open source software. However, it is not the only one: FreeBSD is also becoming popular for its stability, robustness and security. (bold by me)
FreeBSD is an operating system based on the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), which itself is a modification of AT&T’s UNIX, and was created by the University of California. During the development of FreeBSD, to avoid any legal problems with the owners of the source code, the developers decided to re-engineer the original BSD, rather than copy the source code.
In contrast with GNU/Linux, where all the pieces are developed separately and brought together in distributions, FreeBSD has been developed as a complete operating system: the kernel, device drivers, sysadmin’s tools and all the other pieces of software are held in the same revision control system.
Initial development of Linux was started in 1991 by Linus Torvalds who used Minix—an operating system developed by Andrew Tanenbaum for teaching purposes—as the basis for his system. By 1990 the GNU project, which had been started in 1983 by Richard Stallman, had produced and collected all the libraries, compilers, text editors, shells and other software necessary to make a free operating system—except a kernel. The Linux kernel developers decided to adapt their kernel to work with the GNU software to make a complete operating system: GNU/Linux was born.
The kernel and the majority of the code in FreeBSD has been released and distributed under the BSD license although some components use other open licenses like the GPL, the LGPL or the ISC. The Linux kernel, and most of the software in the GNU project, has been licensed under the GNU GPL which was created by the Free Software Foundation.
After this introduction the article deals further with the technical differences and similarities:
1) Naming of devices, 2) runlevels and startup scripts, 3) the kernel, 4) software installation, and 5) the actual installation of GNU/Linux and FreeBSD.
The article concludes with:
FreeBSD and GNU/Linux are two great options: choosing one or the other depends on many factors. Usually FreeBSD is used as a web server: companies like Yahoo! or Sony Japan trust FreeBSD to run their internet portals; on the desktop GNU/Linux wins this battle, but GNU/Linux is used on many web servers as well. Users will find if they are familiar with traditional UNIX systems they can use either without many problems. FreeBSD and Linux: a gift of quality, robustness, security and stability from the free software community to the world of operating systems.
The whole article can be read here.