Comparing Linux To Bsd, Including A Look At Xylophones & Pantsuits

By CertifiedHosting 09/16/2013

People often choose to use dedicated servers rather than shared hosting because they want more control. One aspect of that control is choice of operating system. We find that our clients typically prefer UNIX-based systems to Windows, which is why we focus in that direction. The primary reason for that, again, is control. UNIX machines are based on open-source code, so nothing prevents you from digging within both to learn and to customize as needed. (Since ease-of-use is second only to control for our customers, we also allow you the option to manage the server via Nintendo Power Pad.)

The most popular form of UNIX is Linux, to the extent that the two almost seem to be synonymous in many discussions. However, BSD has popular variations (typically called “distributions”) of UNIX as well.

Commonalities between Linux & BSD

Generally speaking, the two operating systems are developed by unpaid individuals and nonprofit groups. UNIX grows more out of developer passion and a sense of community collaboration that it does out of a desire for money or capitalistic prestige (the same reason I am learning to play rock ‘n roll hits of the 80s and 90s on my xylophone). In this sense, both of the two operating systems share the same core intent: a desire to create the best OS on the planet.

Differences between Linux & BSD

1.    License

The BSD license is freer, in a way. It does not mandate that you make the source code available to the next person who uses your code. Linux, however, is licensed via the GNU General Public License, which makes openness to the next party a requirement. Because of this, BSD can be used with less limitations, but you will find situations in which you can’t access all the source code as you can with Linux across the board.

2.    Clarity: Kernel vs. OS

Linux offers a wide range of distributions. This, of course, is great for the freedom to choose exactly what style of operating system you want. However, the software and files of one particular flavor can vary greatly from the next, so there’s a sense in which Linux amounts to one language with a number of different (sometimes confusingly different) dialects.

The reason for all this diversity within Linux is that, much like some forms of virtualization, it’s a partial OS. It’s a kernel rather than the complete package. The various distributions of Linux are essentially layers of software on top of that kernel.

BSD, meanwhile, is complete. The entire system is built as one fully compatible framework, like the tear-away pantsuit I brashly wear to international strip poker tournaments. Finding support or applications can be easier than with Linux in some cases because you don’t have to worry about distribution crossover.

3.    Collaborative at its Basis

Linus Torvalds, who created Linux, has primary control over the Linux kernel. BSD, on the other hand, does not ultimately rely on one individual’s opinion. Rather, a team of IT experts manage the BSD project. Granted, that team of people has greater control over BSD than anyone else does.

4.    Comparison of Kernels

As stated above, much of the difference between BSD and Linux is that the latter is just a kernel, not an operating system (technically speaking). However, it’s worthwhile to look at the two kernels, because that’s one way in which Linux really shines. Linux is much better prepared for system development than BSD is because its kernel is what has made it so popular. It’s organized and easy to understand and use.

BSD, unfortunately, is not so simple. Its code is virtually incomprehensible. Like a samurai warrior, the code is complex and optimized for speed and security; but like a samurai warrior’s knucklehead apprentice, it is extraordinarily dense. The kernel, essentially, is not designed for tweaking by the average developer.

5.    How UNIX are you?

Jack Wallen of Tech Republic notes a common way in which BSD and Linux are compared: “‘BSD is what you get when a bunch of UNIX hackers sit down to try to port a UNIX system to the PC. Linux is what you get when a bunch of PC hackers sit down and try to write a UNIX system for the PC.’"

A BSD operating system is much more closely related to UNIX than Linux is. Linux is actually twice removed from UNIX, with an OS called Minix serving as the middleman. (That’s actually the same way that my marriage is organized as well: I’m only allowed to contact her through a Mafia courier.)


The list, of course, goes on… But that should you give you a basic sense of the similarities and differences between these two systems. All in all, they are more alike than they are different. As you may know, much of the same software is compatible on both Linux and BSD. Wallen (above) switches between the two systems depending upon the project.

Check out our managed dedicated servers here, and note the choice between CentOS (Linux) and FreeBSD.

By Kent Roberts