Both Linux and the various BSDs (Berkeley Software Distributions) are free and open source and have more in common than differences. With that in mind, you might ask yourself, â€œIf they are so similar, why do they even exist? Isn’t it better to have a single operating system to choose from? Â»
I can answer this question by also mentioning that their differences are huge as well. So much so that covering them all will turn this article into a book, not just an article. Instead, I’ll focus on the basics for both open source systems so you can pick which one is best.
Linux vs. BSD
Linux is not technically considered an operating system. It’s actually just the core. The kernel is a key aspect of any operating system and sits somewhere between software and hardware.
This allows the kernel to help the user use the resources available on the system. The operating system itself is built on top of the kernel.
Kernel vs. OS
Both Linux and BSD are Unix-like operating systems. When you install Linux, you install a distribution built using the Linux kernel. There are quite a few distributions to choose from, such as Ubuntu and Debian, all of which use the Linux kernel. Before a distribution is released to the market, various programs are built into the kernel.
BSD, unlike Linux, is a complete operating system. BSD is also the kernel used as the kernel of the operating system. BSD developers will use this kernel to add various types of programs, making them available to users as a complete distribution. This means that a BSD operating system such as FreeBSD or NetBSD is the kernel plus all programs added on top of it and distributed as a single downloadable package.
BSDs use what is called a port system. This system allows you to install software packages. The software is stored in its original form, which means that your computer will need to compile the data every time before running the software.
The good news here is that packages can be installed in a pre-installed binary state, which allows your system to skip the pre-compilation step.
The main difference between the two is that Linux distributions come with different sets of programs and repositories, which allows the user to download different additional programs to suit the distribution’s requirements.
When you install a BSD operating system, you simply get the programs that BSD offers. This does not apply to software packages, as they are available to both, as you will discover.
Discrepancies in License
Most people may not care, but the licensing difference is really significant. Linux uses the GNU General Public License or GPL. This means that developers can change or add new features to the Linux kernel as they see fit. The only catch is that all of the newly developed source code has to be published, whether they like it or not.
BSDs use their own unique BSD license, which allows developers to modify and add new features to either the BSD kernel or distribution without having to release source code. This means that open source BSD can be declared closed source if the developer chooses. They are not required to provide the source code to anyone.
Software Availability and Compliance
This is the kind of thing that directly affects the popularity and adaptability of the operating system to the general public. The ability of an operating system to be compatible with modern software can be a deciding factor for most people.
On the Linux side, it is easier for developers to write code that can be made available to users in precompiled binaries for installation. Packages can be installed using apt, yum and other similar package managers. The open source nature of Linux makes this easy.
For BSD users, this is not an easy task. Users will have to download the source code of the programs from the thousands of ports available to them. Then, after downloading the sources, they have to compile them on their system.
This creates a headache for both BSD users and developers, as the lack of popularity among ordinary users can be associated with additional hassle when compiling the source codes. Precompiled binaries can be seen as the only cost-effective way to get rid of the hassle, but still poor application availability.
Linux is without a doubt the more popular choice of open source Unix-based operating systems. It usually gets hardware support much faster than BSD, and for most general purposes both systems are too similar to matter.
Both systems have their own advantages. Taking a look at FreeBSD, the development team maintains their own version of a large number of common tools. This allows developers to create their own variations of the tools for use with their system. Linux system tools are mostly provided by the GNU package, so options are less likely.
BSD has a serious application flaw. This prompted the developers to try to control the situation by creating a Linux compatibility package that allows Linux applications to run on BSD. Linux distros don’t have real application problems as there are many.
The real complexity is the free source argument.
Developers and Users Against Restrictions
The Linux GPL tends to be stricter on developers, forcing them to release all modified source code. On the other hand, BSD developers have no such restrictions. It should be remembered that the non-developing public benefits from all this.
When creating new devices, manufacturers can choose BSD as the operating system over Linux. This would allow them to keep their code changes to themselves, since using Linux would be subject to the condition of publishing the source code to the public.
The restrictions imposed on Linux by their license give those looking for applications for the system with confidence that if they are installed, they will have access to them. The BSD license allows developers to remain greedy and reticent about kernel and system changes, which means that even if something is done, the general public may not even be aware of its existence.
BSD systems have earned a better reputation for being reliable systems than their Linux counterpart. This puts a full stop on the BSD scoreboard. It can also execute Linux binaries and requires a central repository. Linux does not have both.
Both options are viable for anyone who needs a Unix based OS. Their similarities make it difficult to promote one over the other. The choice really depends on the developer and user and the requirements for the open source OS the user is looking for.