Choose two GNU/Linux or BSD flavors and see how they compare in features and supported software/hardware.
This may help you select the right operating system for your needs.
Either you're planning on setting up your own dedicated server or just using it as a home desktop, this will point you to the right direction.
Please note that this distro comparison feature is still in beta. We are constantly working on checking the information for correctness, but still lots of data may be a bit outdated. Contact us if you would like to help update the data or even take care of some particular distro on our vortal.
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|GENERAL FEATURES||FreeBSD is a free (as in freedom) UNIX-like operating system from the BSD created in 1993. family. Learn more about its features and history.||A free (as in freedom) UNIX-like system from the BSD family, that first appeared publicly on April 20th, 1993 (NetBSD 0.8). Together with its twin project FreeBSD, built from 386BSD foundations. It is recognized for its outstanding portability.|
|Supported architectures||alpha, amd64, i386, ia64, pc98, sparc64||acorn26, acorn32, algor, alpha, amd64, amiga, amigappc, arc, arm32, atari, bebox, cats, cesfic, cobalt, dreamcast, evbarm, evbmips, evbppc, evbsh3, ews4800mips, hp300, hp700, hpcarm, hpcmips, hpcsh, i386, ibmnws, iyonix, luna68k, mac68k, macppc, mipsco, mmeye, mvme68k, mvmeppc, netwinder, news68k, newsmips, next68k, ofppc, pc532, playstation2, pmax, pmppc, prep, sandpoint, sbmips, sgimips, sh3, sh5, shark, sparc, sparc64, sun2, sun3, vax, x68k, xen, zaurus|
|Minimal hardware requirements||486, 24 MB RAM, 150 MB HDD, details: Hardware Requirements||The minimum requirements are 386-family processor (math coprocessor not required), 4 MB RAM memory (16 MB recommended) and 50 MB HDD space. See example partitioning scheme.|
|Software freedom status||Free as in freedom. Most code is BSD licensed, some components are GPL licensed. Nonfree software may be installed via ports mechanism. After accepting Intel license, it is possible to use firmware for wireless network cards (WiFi). More information in article Intel Approval for Redistribution of Wireless Firmware.||Free as in freedom. Most code is BSD licensed, some components are GPL licensed. Nonfree software may be installed via Pkgsrc package system.|
|Installer - overall||(3) |
|(3) Simple text installer. Like FreeBSD's installer, the NetBSD's installer displays dialog windows.|
|Package selection||(7) Software Packages are divided into categories that are sorted alphabetically, eg. afterstep, archivers, astro, audio, benchmarks, etc. The user may select a specific category and mark some packages for installation. Thanks to the "all" category, it is possible to choose packages from the full list. Dependencies are resolved automatically in the background. There is a short description for each package.||(3) The system is divided into components, which are called distributions sets in the NetBSD's terminology.|
|Predefined package groups||(6) System
The predefined groups are:
||(0) During the installation we choose only the system's components (by selecting the distributions sets in two modes: "Full installation" or "Custom installation"). This is why there are no predefined choices like "KDE/GNOME Workstation", "FTP Server", "Firewall/Router", like in many Linux distributions. After finishing the installation, additional software may be added from the pkgsrc.|
|Expert mode install||(5) The available installation modes are: Standard, Express and Custom.||(1) Installation in expert mode only. Some knowledge about partitioning is required. Thanks to the installer windows, using fdisk and disklabel is not as crude and unfriendly as in OpenBSD. In fact partitioning is the only hard stage that can cause trouble. The installation process is described in details in the handbook.|
|Graphical installer||(1) Although there is no graphic installer, the FreeBSD derivatives: PC-BSD and DesktopBSD have a graphical installer. The lack of a GUI installer is no big deal since FreeBSD's text installer is very clear and intuitive.||(2) There is no official one. Unofficial graphical installers: ECBSD (in development), it is based on QT library, OFInst.|
|Installer speed||(8) It depends how much software is selected to be installed. Usually the installation takes 15-25 minutes.||(9) If one knows exactly how to divide the hard drive (the number and types of disk partitions), the overall time of installation is shorter than 10 minutes (this is obviously in case of CD installation, if we install from FTP it can take longer, depending on the network bandwitch).|
|Graphical system management||(0) No graphical tools. One can of course use wizards from environments like: KDE, GNOME, XFCE.||(0) No graphical tools. One of course can use wizards from environments like: KDE, GNOME, XFCE.|
|Console-based system management||(3) Only via sysinstall installer. It is possible to install packages, partition disk, manage users, configure console (and mouse), configure language settings, configure network card and services. Text frontends for ports system: pkgfe, portsman.||(1) There is no text tools in base system. Some text tools in pkgsrc.|
|Number of packages||(9) More than 18000 ports. Moreover there is available a Linux emulation: handbook section, Linux compatibility (Wikipedia).||(7) Currently there is more than 7000 packages available for NetBSD. Including wip (work in progress) packages, which are not yet finished but usable, the total number of packages is increasing to more than 9000. There is an ability to emulate many systems. Commercial software.|
|Package management, automatic dependency resolving||(8) The ports system provides troubleless software installation and update mechanism. More than 18000 programs exist in the repository which is also called a ports tree, ports collection or just ports. The FreeBSD's ports system has been adopted by NetBSD (pkgsrc) and OpenBSD (ports) and has been independently developed in three branches since then.
The most important component of ports are makefiles. They determine from download sources, instruct how to compile the sources, create binary packages from them and finally install programs.
In order to install software you just need to enter a correct directory and type
Compiling programs gives the ability to tweak all possible options. However big programs like KDE, GNOME or OpenOffice.org require long time to compile (and lots of other resources like RAM memory and disk space). In such cases precompiled binary packages are helpful. In both cases dependencies are automatically resolved. To install a package, simply type
FreeBSD ports system is very complex, so we're not going to describe it here in detail. More information can be found in the handbook and in the manuals
|(5) In contrast to the FreeBSD and OpenBSD, in the NetBSD terminology word "port" means platform and has nothing to do with ports collection. In NetBSD pkgsrc is called Packages Collection (in short or The NetBSD Packages Collection in full). pkgsrc allow you to install the additional software directly from the source code. The advantage is ability to customize all settings to one's preferences. The disadvantage is sometimes long compilation time, especially for such big programs like KDE or GNOME. Installing software is trivial. All you have to do is go to a proper directory in pkgsrc and type |
Precompiled binary packages do not give us such flexibility, but installation time is much shorter (installing ratpoison is as simple as
Pkgsrc installation time can be shortened by downloading and unpacking pkgsrc.tar.gz file (current version) or
|Graphical package management tools||(2) KPorts, BPM — BSD Ports Manipulator, PIB — Ports Index Browser, PortBrowser.||(0) No graphical tool for software installation.|
|System boot-up speed||(6) About 30 seconds, it depends on hardware configuration. Clear and rich commented BSD startup scripts.||(4) About 40 seconds, it depends on hardware configuration. Clear and rich commented BSD startup scripts. All not essential services are disabled by default and if one want to use them, has to manually activate them.|
|System responsiveness||(7) Acceptable speed and responsiveness.||(7) For the best performance, pkgsrc gives ability to tweak compilation flags. Please read the proper handbook chapter and description of |
|Popularity||(6) Around 12 position on DistroWatch ranking.||(1) Around 80 position on DistroWatch ranking.|
|Security focus||(9) FreeBSD includes lots of mechanisms that increase the security level. The portaudit tool allow to check installed packages if they are listed in a
list of published security vulnerabilities. See also FreeBSD VuXML document.
Security related chapters from FreeBSD's handbook:
Some interesting comparisons between FreeBSD and other systems in terms of security can be found on Wikipedia: Comparison of operating systems (security). And here are the FreeBSD security statistics created by the well-respected Secunia company.
|(9) The security level is very high. Both system and pkgsrc vulnerability database are regularly updated.
One can activate CGD (CryptoGraphic Disk Driver), to enable encryption of data transfer when writing and reading from HDD. More information can be found in guide and in Inside NetBSD's CGD article. A combination of CGD and Vnode Disk Driver called CGF (CryptoGraphicFile) is also possible to set up. This can be useful for notebook systems.
Some interesting comparisons between NetBSD and other systems in terms of security can be found in the Wikipedia entry: Comparison of operating systems (security). And here are the NetBSD security statistics by Secunia. Many NetBSD's security features is described in Recent Security Enhancements in NetBSD article.
|Stability and maturity||(9) Like other major BSD flavors: NetBSD and OpenBSD, FreeBSD is very mature and stable system.||(9) The NetBSD's developers track and implement well known standards, system is mature, stable and well designed.|
|Does the installer support multiple languages?||(0) Installer only in English language.||(4) Yes. Available languages are: English, French, German, Polish and Spanish.|
|Is the system localized after installation?||(3) Localized areas: system console keymap, time zone, country.||(2) TODO|
|Is manual system localization easy?||(6) Handbook: Chapter 20 Localization.||(1) TODO|
|Support for restricted formats||(6) There is no native Flash, Skype etc.
The restricted components in ports:
||(6) How to use the 5.1 surround sound with NetBSD. The restricted components in pkgsrc:
|Sagem DSL modem support||(4) There is uEagle 1.5 driver available for BSD systems.||(3) There is a uEagle 1.5 driver for the BSD-family systems.|
|Alcatel DSL modem support||(3) Driver for BSD-family systems.||(3) There is a driver for the BSD-family systems.|
|Wireless support||(7) However there is more native drivers for Linux than for FreeBSD, WiFi support is quite good. Drivers are included in the kernel. In each release support is improved. Additionally WiFi devices support has been expanded by including Intel's firmware. Compare wireless drivers.||(4) Supported network cards (section Network interfaces):|
Each system gets a mark from 0 (min) to 9 (max). In most cases the description precises the mark. A question mark (?) means that we do not have any information about certain feature.