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
32: A detailed list of NetBSD features can be found at:
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](http://www.NetBSD.org/ports/).
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
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 [ftp.NetBSD.org](ftp://ftp.NetBSD.org) and its
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](http://www.NetBSD.org/sites/cdroms.html) on the NetBSD site.
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