Software consultant (and Linux & Open Source Center reader) Brian Masinick continues:
Ive tried installing and testing out FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. While none of them are terribly difficult for an experienced systems administrator to install, compared to the progress thats been made in the past three years on GNU/Linux system installation programs, all three of the free BSD systems lag quite a bit in terms of simple, easy to use installation programs, particularly for consumers.
For those who get past those things, BSD software, in any variety, is stable, extremely flexible, arguably better tested, more secure. At the same time, those things also mean that it tends to be less bleeding edge, slower to come out with new features, and more difficult to initially install.
FreeBSD has a really interesting way to deal with this. The current branch of software is much closer to the leading edge, and can approach what Linux users are used to seeing. At the same time, it has a stable branch, which contains rock solid, well-tested software.
The other BSD variations seem much more intent on providing stable, secure software thats also portable, but they, too, have adopted a way to get at somewhat more "current" software, then provide a very stable release branch. Ive not yet had a good chance to thoroughly assess all of this to compare how these branches compare to typical commercial Linux software.
Want more BSD insights? Then check out a detailed Extreme Tech article here.
On the Linux end of things, Red Hat, Mandrake,
and SuSE dominate most of the easy to use commercial software, but recently, companies like Lindows.com, with its LindowsOS, Xandros, with its updated version of what used to be Corel Linux, and small desktop players, such as Lycoris Desktop/LX and ELX, have made Linux software offerings quite interesting and very useful, even to casual consumers.
In the noncommercial space, the Debian GNU/Linux project has been most interesting to me, and over the past year, Ive developed more interest in it than anything else. From the Debian project, I can get a choice of either stable or bleeding-edge software, and I can get it in either binary or source form. As long as I have a good network link (which I do), I can easily download and customize my system to suit my needs and interests.
I still intend to do a lot more exploring of the BSD implementations of software because I have so much background in BSD based Unix systems. But as someone whos used both Unix and Linux software, I can tell you that it is far easier and quicker to get into any number of Linux systems and come out with a really solid, usable desktop system. If I were running mainly server software, Id think itd be much more worthwhile investing the additional time and effort to secure an OpenBSD system rather than a GNU/Linux system. However, I do not feel that the security differences are large enough to worry greatly about, for those who dont have a lot of systems background. I think thats why so many individuals and companies (myself included) have opted to focus more on Linux systems for every day use.
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eWEEK.com Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about Unix and Linux since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.