File:  [NetBSD Developer Wiki] / wikisrc / guide / intro.mdwn
Revision 1.2: download - view: text, annotated - select for diffs
Tue Mar 5 23:33:53 2013 UTC (8 years, 4 months ago) by jdf
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CVS tags: HEAD
Cosmetics (mainly removing trailing whitespaces).

    1: # What is NetBSD?
    3: NetBSD is a free, fast, secure, and highly portable Unix-like Open Source
    4: operating system. It is available for many platforms, from 64-bit x86 servers
    5: and PC desktop systems to embedded ARM and MIPS based devices. Its clean design
    6: and advanced features make it excellent in both production and research
    7: environments, and it is user-supported with complete source. Many applications
    8: are easily available through pkgsrc, the NetBSD Packages Collection.
   10: ## The story of NetBSD
   12: The first version of NetBSD (0.8) dates back to 1993 and springs from the 4.3BSD
   13: Lite operating system, a version of Unix developed at the University of
   14: California, Berkeley (BSD = Berkeley Software Distribution), and from the 386BSD
   15: system, the first BSD port to the Intel 386 CPU. In the following years,
   16: modifications from the 4.4BSD Lite release (the last release from the Berkeley
   17: group) were integrated into the system. The BSD branch of Unix has had a great
   18: importance and influence on the history of Unix-like operating systems, to which
   19: it has contributed many tools, ideas and improvements which are now standard:
   20: the vi editor, the C shell, job control, the Berkeley fast file system, reliable
   21: signals, support for virtual memory and TCP/IP, just to name a few. This
   22: tradition of research and development survives today in the BSD systems and, in
   23: particular, in NetBSD.
   25: ## NetBSD features
   27: NetBSD operates on a vast range of hardware platforms and is very portable. The
   28: full source to the NetBSD kernel and userland is available for all the supported
   29: platforms; please see the details on the official site of the [NetBSD
   30: Project](
   32: A detailed list of NetBSD features can be found at:
   33: [](
   35: The basic features of NetBSD are:
   37:  * Code quality and correctness
   38:  * Portability to a wide range of hardware
   39:  * Secure defaults
   40:  * Adherence to industry standards
   41:  * Research and innovation
   43: These characteristics bring also indirect advantages. For example, if you work
   44: on just one platform you could think that you're not interested in portability.
   45: But portability is tied to code quality; without a well written and well
   46: organized code base it would be impossible to support a large number of
   47: platforms. And code quality is the base of any good and solid software system,
   48: though surprisingly few people seem to understand it.
   50: One of the key characteristics of NetBSD is that its developers are not
   51: satisfied with partial implementations. Some systems seem to have the philosophy
   52: of *If it works, it's right.* In that light NetBSD's philosophy could be
   53: described as *It doesn't work unless it's right*. Think about how many
   54: overgrown programs are collapsing under their own weight and "features"
   55: and you'll understand why NetBSD tries to avoid this situation at all costs.
   57: ## Supported platforms
   59: NetBSD supports many platforms, including the popular PC platform (i386 and
   60: amd64), SPARC and UltraSPARC, Alpha, Amiga, Atari, and m68k and PowerPC based
   61: Apple Macintosh machines. Technical details for all of them can be found on
   62: [the NetBSD site](
   64: ## NetBSD's target users
   66: The NetBSD site states that: *The NetBSD Project provides a freely available and
   67: redistributable system that professionals, hobbyists, and researchers can use in
   68: whatever manner they wish*. It is also an ideal system if you want to learn
   69: Unix, mainly because of its adherence to standards (one of the project goals)
   70: and because it works equally well on the latest PC hardware as well as on
   71: hardware which is considered obsolete by many other operating systems. To learn
   72: and use Unix you don't need to buy expensive hardware; you can use that old PC
   73: or Mac in your attic. It is important to note that although NetBSD runs on old
   74: hardware, modern hardware is well supported and care has been taken to ensure
   75: that supporting old machines does not inhibit performance on modern hardware. In
   76: addition, if you need a Unix system which runs consistently on a variety of
   77: platforms, NetBSD is probably your best choice.
   79: ## Applications for NetBSD
   81: Aside from the standard Unix productivity tools, editors, formatters, C/C++
   82: compilers and debuggers and so on that are included with the base system, there
   83: is a huge collection of packages (currently over 8,000) that can be installed
   84: both from source and in pre-compiled form. All the packages that you expect to
   85: find on a well configured system are available for NetBSD for free. The
   86: framework that makes this possible, pkgsrc, also includes a number of commercial
   87: applications. In addition, NetBSD provides binary emulation for various other
   88: \*nix operating systems, allowing you to run non-native applications. Linux
   89: emulation is probably the most relevant example. You can run the Linux versions
   90: of
   92:  * Firefox
   93:  * the Adobe Flash player plugin
   94:  * Acrobat Reader
   95:  * many other programs
   97: ## How to get NetBSD
   99: NetBSD is an Open Source operating system, and as such it is freely available
  100: for download from []( and its
  101: [mirrors](
  103: There is no "official" supplier of NetBSD CD-ROMs but there are various
  104: resellers. You can find the most up to date list on the relevant
  105: [page]( on the NetBSD site.

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