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This Unix variant is the "Alternative's alternative", released under the ultimate in unrestrictive licensing.


FreeBSD 1.0 was released in 1993, a branch from 4.3BSD lite. In 1994, Novell and UCB settled over intellectual property within the 4.3 BSD release, and major chunks of the OS had to be removed to cater to the legal settlement, plus the requirements of the CSRG at the time. So the FreeBSD team plugged away at the formidable task of rewriting major parts of the kernel. By the end of 1994, a legal-encumbered free release was ready, FreeBSD 2.0.

The 2.0 series became quite popular with ISPs, and by 1996, FreeBSD had formed its STABLE and CURRENT branches, which it maintains till this day. 1998 through 2000 saw the 3.x series, 2000 saw the coming of the current 4.x tree. The current FreeBSD as of this writing is 4.7, with 5.0 Developer Release 2.0 out, 5.0 RELEASE just around the corner. 5.0 is slated to bring quality threading, SMP, and an improved UFS filesystem, among other things. FreeBSD runs on the x86, alpha, ia64, pc98, sparc64 and indirectly on the mac via OS X.

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The original write-up in this space suggested that FreeBSD was primarily for server farms, but due to many enhancements within FreeBSD, this limit certainly doesn't apply to modern-day FreeBSD. FreeBSD runs well as a small scale server, a Desktop machine, or even on a laptop. Its versatilty comes in handy, and while a matter of personal taste, some end up falling in love with how FreeBSD does things, and prefer it over Linux. With the release of such things as NVIDIA drivers and Linux compatability tools, FreeBSD both has many software avenues and the tools to support a desktop system.

Another boon for FreeBSD is the ports collection, a 5000-plus application base which is kept constantly up-to-date, and allows an easy route to installing and upgrading software. For many programs, its as easy as changing to the proper directory, and typing `make && make install'. Dependency tracking and the Drags of an RPM based system are nowhere to be found. The installer for FreeBSD, while text-based, is very straightforward and useful. This easy-to-use, logical and structured OS is a definite recommendation for anyone willing to learn a bit.


more detailed historical account: http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/history.html