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# What is NetBSD?

NetBSD is a free, fast, secure, and highly portable Unix-like Open Source 
operating system. It is available for many platforms, from 64-bit x86 servers 
and PC desktop systems to embedded ARM and MIPS based devices. Its clean design 
and advanced features make it excellent in both production and research 
environments, and it is user-supported with complete source. Many applications 
are easily available through pkgsrc, the NetBSD Packages Collection.

## The story of NetBSD

The first version of NetBSD (0.8) dates back to 1993 and springs from the 4.3BSD 
Lite operating system, a version of Unix developed at the University of 
California, Berkeley (BSD = Berkeley Software Distribution), and from the 386BSD 
system, the first BSD port to the Intel 386 CPU. In the following years, 
modifications from the 4.4BSD Lite release (the last release from the Berkeley 
group) were integrated into the system. The BSD branch of Unix has had a great 
importance and influence on the history of Unix-like operating systems, to which 
it has contributed many tools, ideas and improvements which are now standard: 
the vi editor, the C shell, job control, the Berkeley fast file system, reliable 
signals, support for virtual memory and TCP/IP, just to name a few. This 
tradition of research and development survives today in the BSD systems and, in 
particular, in NetBSD.

## NetBSD features

NetBSD operates on a vast range of hardware platforms and is very portable. The 
full source to the NetBSD kernel and userland is available for all the supported 
platforms; please see the details on the official site of the [NetBSD 
Project](http://www.NetBSD.org/).

A detailed list of NetBSD features can be found at: 
[http://www.NetBSD.org/about/features.html](http://www.NetBSD.org/about/features.html).

The basic features of NetBSD are:

 * Code quality and correctness
 * Portability to a wide range of hardware
 * Secure defaults
 * Adherence to industry standards
 * Research and innovation

These characteristics bring also indirect advantages. For example, if you work 
on just one platform you could think that you're not interested in portability. 
But portability is tied to code quality; without a well written and well 
organized code base it would be impossible to support a large number of 
platforms. And code quality is the base of any good and solid software system, 
though surprisingly few people seem to understand it.

One of the key characteristics of NetBSD is that its developers are not 
satisfied with partial implementations. Some systems seem to have the philosophy 
of *If it works, it's right.* In that light NetBSD's philosophy could be 
described as *It doesn't work unless it's right*. Think about how many 
overgrown programs are collapsing under their own weight and "features"
and you'll understand why NetBSD tries to avoid this situation at all costs.

## Supported platforms

NetBSD supports many platforms, including the popular PC platform (i386 and 
amd64), SPARC and UltraSPARC, Alpha, Amiga, Atari, and m68k and PowerPC based 
Apple Macintosh machines. Technical details for all of them can be found on
[the NetBSD site](http://www.NetBSD.org/ports/).

## NetBSD's target users

The NetBSD site states that: *The NetBSD Project provides a freely available and 
redistributable system that professionals, hobbyists, and researchers can use in 
whatever manner they wish*. It is also an ideal system if you want to learn 
Unix, mainly because of its adherence to standards (one of the project goals) 
and because it works equally well on the latest PC hardware as well as on 
hardware which is considered obsolete by many other operating systems. To learn 
and use Unix you don't need to buy expensive hardware; you can use that old PC 
or Mac in your attic. It is important to note that although NetBSD runs on old 
hardware, modern hardware is well supported and care has been taken to ensure 
that supporting old machines does not inhibit performance on modern hardware. In 
addition, if you need a Unix system which runs consistently on a variety of 
platforms, NetBSD is probably your best choice.

## Applications for NetBSD

Aside from the standard Unix productivity tools, editors, formatters, C/C++ 
compilers and debuggers and so on that are included with the base system, there 
is a huge collection of packages (currently over 8,000) that can be installed 
both from source and in pre-compiled form. All the packages that you expect to 
find on a well configured system are available for NetBSD for free. The 
framework that makes this possible, pkgsrc, also includes a number of commercial 
applications. In addition, NetBSD provides binary emulation for various other 
\*nix operating systems, allowing you to run non-native applications. Linux 
emulation is probably the most relevant example. You can run the Linux versions 
of

 * Firefox
 * the Adobe Flash player plugin
 * Acrobat Reader
 * many other programs

## How to get NetBSD

NetBSD is an Open Source operating system, and as such it is freely available 
for download from [ftp.NetBSD.org](ftp://ftp.NetBSD.org) and its 
[mirrors](http://www.NetBSD.org/mirrors/).

There is no "official" supplier of NetBSD CD-ROMs but there are various 
resellers. You can find the most up to date list on the relevant 
[page](http://www.NetBSD.org/sites/cdroms.html) on the NetBSD site.


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