Why I am Leaning Toward FreeBSD

Continuing the series of trying to come up with reasons for choosing an operating system, FreeBSD will be discussed. Although FreeBSD is not Linux, it is Unix-like, nonetheless. I have never used FreeBSD and all things discussed here are second-hand knowledge.

Solid Server

FreeBSD is known to be a very solid server, both stable and secure. In fact, as of today, Netcraft’s list of longest uptimes shows that seven out of the top 10 servers with longest uptime are running FreeBSD. Yes, uptime is not the only indication of a good server but it is at least one.

Free, Maybe Freer

FreeBSD is released under a BSD license. It is an open source compatible license (similar to GPL) but it allows anyone to take the code, modify it, and then not release the modifications. Some argue that BSD license provides more freedom than GPL. I believe both licenses provide different freedoms, although business would prefer BSD for their stuff. On the other hand, GPL gives the same business the advantage of using stuff that other developed for them (and everyone else).

FreeBSD is free (as in candy) and free (as in speech). What more could a free software advocate want?


Linux is a kernel while FreeBSD is the whole operating system. With Linux, distributions decide which software to combine with the kernel and create a whole operating system. So with Linux different distributions are not exactly the same. In this scenario, you may be an expert in Debian but may have to re-learn some stuff when moving to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Not so with FreeBSD. Once you are an expert in FreeBSD, you are an expert in FreeBSD anywhere.

You also get the advantage of getting all your things from one place: FreeBSD creators. All the software and most of the help is in one place. It’s an integrated operating system where one team makes all the decisions and one team does all the stuff for you.


I have seen great documentation for FreeBSD. It is not only on their website but also from third-party authors in forms of books, blogs, tutorials, and other. Then there are forums and mailing lists. Yes, all this stuff is available for Linux as well. However, great documentation and help is a great plus for a free product.


In FreeBSD there is only one package management system, unlike Linux where different distributions have different package management systems. This system is called Ports. What it does is download actual source code and compile it on your system, resolving all dependencies by itself and giving you an optimized package for your system.

Hardware Support

FreeBSD can be installed and run on many, many architectures. It means whatever system you may have, it is very likely you will be able to run FreeBSD on it.

Linux Support

FreeBSD has the ability to run software made for Linux with its Linux compatibility layer. So if you go with FreeBSD, you do not lose out on the benefits of Linux applications.


FreeBSD has other siblings, and together they make an ecosystem. All siblings may not be the same but they are very similar. Another aspect of the ecosystem is because of its licensing. Taking the examples of DTrace and ZFS, they are being ported from Solaris to FreeBSD. DTrace’s license is incompatible with Linux’s but not FreeBSD’s. So it will be available on FreeBSD before (if ever) on Linux.


FreeBSD has many, many advantages. It is a completely free, stable, secure, and well supported operating system. It has lots of applications available and can even run Linux applications. Although it is not as popular as Linux, and may not be as well supported by third-party vendors as Linux, it is a very good option for anyone if they can overcome these things.

7 Responses to Why I am Leaning Toward FreeBSD

  1. leftycrupps says:

    > Linux is a kernel while FreeBSD is the whole operating system.
    Not necessarily; FreeBSD still contains KDE, Firefox, and Pidgin if you want. I would say these two are about the same — eithr someone means the whole kit, or they just mean the kernel.

    > In this scenario, you may be an expert in Debian but may have to
    > re-learn some stuff when moving to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Not
    > so with FreeBSD.
    Perhaps not, but it IS so with moving from FreeBSD to DesktopBSD to DragonflyBSD to OpenBSD to NetBSD to MacOSX, or any of the others listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_BSD_operating_systems Basically your argument is, if you forever keep with one Linux distro (Debian for example) you’ll never have to learn another. Well, of course that is the case if you never change.

    > Once you are an expert in FreeBSD, you are an expert in FreeBSD
    > anywhere
    If only that were true. Unfortunately due to the freedom to fork-and-not-give-back that the BSD license uses, there is a good chance that you WILL be faced with an unknown FreeBSD-based OS that will have parts that you don’t know. At least with Linux and the GPL, if its a good idea people can use it or not, since the change HAS to be open for the community to see. It helps to advance all of us; the BSD license helps to advance only those who want to take the code for themselves (um, Apple?)

    I had to sign up for a WordPress account to post here :( but I thought your ideas needed some discussion. Do you see what I am saying, Code Ghar?

  2. hs says:

    I can see what you mean. As I said in the post, I do not have first-hand experience with FreeBSD (or any other BSD, actually). My point in comparing various distributions of Linux with FreeBSD was that if you know FreeBSD you know FreeBSD. But if you know Linux, you usually have to qualify it based on one (or more) distribution(s). Your point is definitely valid with OpenBSD and others in the BSD world: you still may have to relearn many things when moving around.

    A lot has been said on the issue of GPL versus BSD and both advocates have valid points. I prefer GPL because it forces you to give back to the community. But to me it seems to take away freedom at the same time: freedom to do whatever you want with the code without prerequisites. BSD, on the other hand, is more charitable in that you give what you can without expecting anything in return.

    I have turned on the requirement of signing in because initially I would like to get comments from people who actually are willing to make the effort to make a point. Kind of like how you did. It may be frustrating but that’s how it is for now.

  3. Pingback: Boycott Novell » Links 18/07/2008: GNU/Linux at NASA, Nicaragua

  4. ddouthitt says:

    While I am sympathetic to your points, and agree mostly, I get tired of BSD people comparing (for example) FreeBSD to Linux (that is, apples to oranges), and then saying that Linux is a kernel and FreeBSD isn’t (that is to say, hey, it’s an apple and that’s an orange).

    If they’re different beasts, then don’t compare them. A much fairer comparison might be FreeBSD to Red Hat Linux or OpenBSD to Debian GNU/Linux for example.

    Many of the complaints are based on the fact that FreeBSD is not compared to a distribution but rather a kernel. For a fair comparison between Linux and FreeBSD, one would have to limit discussion to the core BSD kernel – which is in OpenBSD, NetBSD, MacOS X, and so on.

    You suggest that FreeBSD can be installed on many, many architectures. Um – how about exactly two? Or is it three?

    NetBSD runs on over 70 architectures if I remember right – including the Sega DreamCast, Playstation 3, Digital VAX, and others – none of which will run FreeBSD.

    Also, Linux support is misleading; try and run Cisco’s Linux VPN client once. Hint: you can’t: Cisco adds a Linux kernel driver, and you can’t do that on FreeBSD.

    To me, there are several reasons that FreeBSD is better than most Linux distros:
    1. Documentation is more professional and more complete
    2. Kernel is smaller, runs in more places
    3. Stability is good or better
    4. Ports provide chance to operate much faster
    5. Number of ports is astronomical

    However, I’d say if the BSD license is important to the user (that is to say, critically important) – then you should use OpenBSD. They are the most rabid about license incompatibilities (witness the creation of pf for example).

    Let me note that I run FreeBSD 6.3 on my Armada E500 all the time; very nice.

  5. ddouthitt says:

    One more thing: BSD is *not* UNIX-like: it *is* UNIX (or UNIX-derived, at the very least).

  6. hs says:


    You have made some good points. On the issue of comparing FreeBSD to Linux, it really is comparing apples to oranges and that is what I meant to convey: there is no one Linux to compare with FreeBSD. But it is important to say, nonetheless, that FreeBSD is different from Linux because Linux is a kernel, a Linux distribution is an operating system, and when someone says FreeBSD they mean an operating system.

    Like I said in the post, I do not have first-hand knowledge of FreeBSD. So it is difficult for me to state that FreeBSD runs all Linux software; if it was implied, it was unintentional.

    As for architectures, FreeBSD’s own site lists 11 architectures on which FreeBSD either runs, or is in the works to run, on. I think we are thinking along the same lines when mentioning FreeBSD is Unix-like versus Unix-derived (different choice of words), with your description more accurate. It is, however, not Unix because legally (I think) they cannot claim it is.

  7. hs says:

    I found an interesting discussion about FreeBSD. It tries to list reasons not to use FreeBSD.

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