General Discussion Opinion

What is FreeBSD? Why Should You Choose It Over Linux?

What is FreeBSD
Written by Martins D. Okoi

Not too long ago I wondered if and in what situations FreeBSD could be faster than Linux and we received a good amount of informative feedback. So far, Linux rules the desktop space and FreeBSD rules the server space.

In the meantime, though, what exactly is FreeBSD? And at what times should you choose it over a GNU/Linux installation? Let’s tackle these questions.

FreeBSD is a free and open source derivative of BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) with a focus on speed, stability, security, and consistency, among other features. It has been developed and maintained by a large community ever since its initial release many years ago on November 1, 1993.

BSD is the version of UNIX® that was developed at the University of California in Berkeley. And being a free and open source version, “Free” being a suffix to BSD is a no-brainer.

What’s FreeBSD Good For?

FreeBSD offers a plethora of advanced features and even boasts some not available in some commercial Operating Systems. It makes an excellent Internet and Intranet server thanks to its robust network services that allow it to maximize memory and work with heavy loads to deliver and maintain good response times for thousands of simultaneous user processes.

FreeBSD runs a huge number of applications with ease. At the moment, it has over 24,000 ported applications and libraries with support for desktop, server, and embedded environments. with that being said, let me also add that FreeBSD is excellent for working with advanced embedded platforms. Mail and web appliances, timer servers, routers, MIPS hardware platforms, etc. You name it!

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FreeBSD is available to install in several ways and there are directions to follow for any method you want to use; be it via CD-ROM, over a network using NFS or FTP, or DVD.

FreeBSD is easy to contribute to and all you have to do is to locate the section of the FreeBSD code base to modify and carefully do a neat job. Potential contributors are also free to improve on its artwork and documentation, among other project aspects.

FreeBSD is a non-profit organization that you can contribute to financially and all direct contributions are tax deductible.

FreeBSD’s license allows users to incorporate the use of proprietary software which is ideal for companies interested in generating revenues. Netflix, for example, could cite this as one of the reasons for using FreeBSD servers.

You can read more about FreeBSD’s features on its website.

Why Should You Choose It over Linux?

  • From what I’ve gathered about both FreeBSD and Linux, FreeBSD has a better performance on servers than Linux does. Yes, its packaged applications are configured to offer better a performance than Linux and it is usually running fewer services by default, there really isn’t a way to certify which is faster because the answer is dependent on the running hardware and applications and how the system is tuned.
  • FreeBSD is reportedly more secure than Linux because of the way the whole project is developed and maintained.
  • Unlike with Linux, the FreeBSD project is controlled by a large community of developers around the world who fall into any of these categories; core team, contributors, and committers.
  • FreeBSD is much easier to learn and use because there aren’t a thousand and one distros to choose from with different package managers, DEs, etc.
  • FreeBSD is more convenient to contribute to because it is the entire OS that is preserved and not just the kernel and a repo as is the case with Linux. You can easily access all of its versions since they are sorted by release numbers.
  • Apart from the many documentations and guides that you can find online, FreeBSD has a single official documentation wherein you can find the solution to virtually any issue you will come across. So, you’re sure to find it resourceful.
  • FreeBSD has close to no software issues compared to Linux because it has Java, is capable of running Windows programs using Wine, and can run .NET programs using Mono.
  • FreeBSD’s ports/packages system allows you to compile software with specific configurations, thereby avoiding conflicting dependency and version issues.
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Both the FreeBSD and GNU/Linux project are always receiving updates. The platform you decide to go with is largely dependent on what you want to use it for, your technical know-how, willingness to learn new stuff, and ultimately your preference.

What is your take on the topic? For what reasons would you choose FreeBSD over Linux if you would? Let us know what you think about both platforms in the comments section below.

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About the author

Martins D. Okoi

Martins Divine Okoi is a graduate of Computer Science with a passion for Linux and the Open Source community. He works as a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, and programmer.