The following section provides some background information on the project, including a brief history, project goals, and the development model of the project.
The FreeBSD project had its genesis in the early part of 1993, partially as an outgrowth of the ``Unofficial 386BSD Patchkit'' by the patchkit's last 3 coordinators: Nate Williams, Rod Grimes and myself.
Our original goal was to produce an intermediate snapshot of 386BSD in order to fix a number of problems with it that the patchkit mechanism just was not capable of solving. Some of you may remember the early working title for the project being ``386BSD 0.5'' or ``386BSD Interim'' in reference to that fact.
386BSD was Bill Jolitz's operating system, which had been up to that point suffering rather severely from almost a year's worth of neglect. As the patchkit swelled ever more uncomfortably with each passing day, we were in unanimous agreement that something had to be done and decided to try and assist Bill by providing this interim ``cleanup'' snapshot. Those plans came to a rude halt when Bill Jolitz suddenly decided to withdraw his sanction from the project without any clear indication of what would be done instead.
It did not take us long to decide that the goal remained worthwhile, even without Bill's support, and so we adopted the name ``FreeBSD'', coined by David Greenman. Our initial objectives were set after consulting with the system's current users and, once it became clear that the project was on the road to perhaps even becoming a reality, I contacted Walnut Creek CDROM with an eye towards improving FreeBSD's distribution channels for those many unfortunates without easy access to the Internet. Walnut Creek CDROM not only supported the idea of distributing FreeBSD on CD but also went so far as to provide the project with a machine to work on and a fast Internet connection. Without Walnut Creek CDROM's almost unprecedented degree of faith in what was, at the time, a completely unknown project, it is quite unlikely that FreeBSD would have gotten as far, as fast, as it has today.
The first CDROM (and general net-wide) distribution was FreeBSD 1.0, released in December of 1993. This was based on the 4.3BSD-Lite (``Net/2'') tape from U.C. Berkeley, with many components also provided by 386BSD and the Free Software Foundation. It was a fairly reasonable success for a first offering, and we followed it with the highly successful FreeBSD 1.1 release in May of 1994.
Around this time, some rather unexpected storm clouds formed on the horizon as Novell and U.C. Berkeley settled their long-running lawsuit over the legal status of the Berkeley Net/2 tape. A condition of that settlement was U.C. Berkeley's concession that large parts of Net/2 were ``encumbered'' code and the property of Novell, who had in turn acquired it from AT&T some time previously. What Berkeley got in return was Novell's ``blessing'' that the 4.4BSD-Lite release, when it was finally released, would be declared unencumbered and all existing Net/2 users would be strongly encouraged to switch. This included FreeBSD, and the project was given until the end of July 1994 to stop shipping its own Net/2 based product. Under the terms of that agreement, the project was allowed one last release before the deadline, that release being FreeBSD 188.8.131.52.
FreeBSD then set about the arduous task of literally re-inventing itself from a completely new and rather incomplete set of 4.4BSD-Lite bits. The ``Lite'' releases were light in part because Berkeley's CSRG had removed large chunks of code required for actually constructing a bootable running system (due to various legal requirements) and the fact that the Intel port of 4.4 was highly incomplete. It took the project until November of 1994 to make this transition, at which point it released FreeBSD 2.0 to the net and on CDROM (in late December). Despite being still more than a little rough around the edges, the release was a significant success and was followed by the more robust and easier to install FreeBSD 2.0.5 release in June of 1995.
We released FreeBSD 2.1.5 in August of 1996, and it appeared to be popular enough among the ISP and commercial communities that another release along the 2.1-STABLE branch was merited. This was FreeBSD 184.108.40.206, released in February 1997 and capping the end of mainstream development on 2.1-STABLE. Now in maintenance mode, only security enhancements and other critical bug fixes will be done on this branch (RELENG_2_1_0).
FreeBSD 2.2 was branched from the development mainline (``-CURRENT'') in November 1996 as the RELENG_2_2 branch, and the first full release (2.2.1) was released in April 1997. Further releases along the 2.2 branch were done in the summer and fall of '97, the last of which (2.2.8) appeared in November 1998. The first official 3.0 release appeared in October 1998 and spelled the beginning of the end for the 2.2 branch.
The tree branched again on Jan 20, 1999, leading to the 4.0-CURRENT and 3.X-STABLE branches. From 3.X-STABLE, 3.1 was released on February 15, 1999, 3.2 on May 15, 1999, 3.3 on September 16, 1999, 3.4 on December 20, 1999, and 3.5 on June 24, 2000, which was followed a few days later by a minor point release update to 3.5.1, to incorporate some last-minute security fixes to Kerberos. This will be the final release in the 3.X branch.
There was another branch on March 13, 2000, which saw the emergence of the 4.X-STABLE branch, now considered to be the "current -stable branch". There have been several releases from it so far: 4.0-RELEASE came out in March 2000, 4.1 was released in July 2000, 4.2 in November 2000, 4.3 in April 2001, and 4.4 in September 2001. There will be more releases along the 4.X-stable (RELENG_4) branch well into 2002.
Long-term development projects continue to take place in the 5.0-CURRENT (trunk) branch, and SNAPshot releases of 5.0 on CDROM (and, of course, on the net) are continually made available from the snapshot server as work progresses.
The goals of the FreeBSD Project are to provide software that may be used for any purpose and without strings attached. Many of us have a significant investment in the code (and project) and would certainly not mind a little financial compensation now and then, but we are definitely not prepared to insist on it. We believe that our first and foremost ``mission'' is to provide code to any and all comers, and for whatever purpose, so that the code gets the widest possible use and provides the widest possible benefit. This is, I believe, one of the most fundamental goals of Free Software and one that we enthusiastically support.
That code in our source tree which falls under the GNU General Public License (GPL) or Library General Public License (LGPL) comes with slightly more strings attached, though at least on the side of enforced access rather than the usual opposite. Due to the additional complexities that can evolve in the commercial use of GPL software we do, however, prefer software submitted under the more relaxed BSD copyright when it is a reasonable option to do so.
The development of FreeBSD is a very open and flexible process, FreeBSD being literally built from the contributions of hundreds of people around the world, as can be seen from our our list of contributors. We are constantly on the lookout for new developers and ideas, and those interested in becoming more closely involved with the project need simply contact us at the FreeBSD technical discussions mailing list <freebsd-hackers@FreeBSD.org>. The FreeBSD announcements mailing list <freebsd-announce@FreeBSD.org> is also available to those wishing to make other FreeBSD users aware of major areas of work.
Useful things to know about the FreeBSD project and its development process, whether working independently or in close cooperation:
The central source tree for FreeBSD is maintained by CVS (Concurrent Versions System), a freely available source code control tool that comes bundled with FreeBSD. The primary CVS repository resides on a machine in Santa Clara CA, USA from where it is replicated to numerous mirror machines throughout the world. The CVS tree, as well as the -CURRENT and -STABLE trees which are checked out of it, can be easily replicated to your own machine as well. Please refer to the Synchronizing your source tree section for more information on doing this.
The committers are the people who have write access to the CVS tree, and are thus authorized to make modifications to the FreeBSD source (the term ``committer'' comes from the cvs(1) commit command, which is used to bring new changes into the CVS repository). The best way of making submissions for review by the committers list is to use the send-pr(1) command, though if something appears to be jammed in the system then you may also reach them by sending mail to <cvs-committers@FreeBSD.org>.
The FreeBSD core team would be equivalent to the board of directors if the FreeBSD Project were a company. The primary task of the core team is to make sure the project, as a whole, is in good shape and is heading in the right directions. Inviting dedicated and responsible developers to join our group of committers is one of the functions of the core team, as is the recruitment of new core team members as others move on. The current core team was elected from a pool of committer candidates in October 2000. Elections are held every 2 years.
Some core team members also have specific areas of responsibility, meaning that they are committed to ensuring that some large portion of the system works as advertised. For a complete list of FreeBSD developers and their areas of responsibility, please see the Contributors List
Note: Most members of the core team are volunteers when it comes to FreeBSD development and do not benefit from the project financially, so ``commitment'' should also not be misconstrued as meaning ``guaranteed support.'' The ``board of directors'' analogy above is not actually very accurate, and it may be more suitable to say that these are the people who gave up their lives in favor of FreeBSD against their better judgment!
Last, but definitely not least, the largest group of developers are the users themselves who provide feedback and bug fixes to us on an almost constant basis. The primary way of keeping in touch with FreeBSD's more non-centralized development is to subscribe to the FreeBSD technical discussions mailing list <freebsd-hackers@FreeBSD.org> (see mailing list info) where such things are discussed.
The FreeBSD Contributors List is a long and growing one, so why not join it by contributing something back to FreeBSD today?
Providing code is not the only way of contributing to the project; for a more complete list of things that need doing, please refer to the FreeBSD Project web site.
In summary, our development model is organized as a loose set of concentric circles. The centralized model is designed for the convenience of the users of FreeBSD, who are thereby provided with an easy way of tracking one central code base, not to keep potential contributors out! Our desire is to present a stable operating system with a large set of coherent application programs that the users can easily install and use, and this model works very well in accomplishing that.
All we ask of those who would join us as FreeBSD developers is some of the same dedication its current people have to its continued success!
FreeBSD is a freely available, full source 4.4BSD-Lite based release for Intel i386, i486, Pentium, Pentium Pro, Celeron, Pentium II, Pentium III (or compatible) and DEC Alpha based computer systems. It is based primarily on software from U.C. Berkeley's CSRG group, with some enhancements from NetBSD, OpenBSD, 386BSD, and the Free Software Foundation.
Since our release of FreeBSD 2.0 in late 94, the performance, feature set, and stability of FreeBSD has improved dramatically. The largest change is a revamped virtual memory system with a merged VM/file buffer cache that not only increases performance, but also reduces FreeBSD's memory footprint, making a 5MB configuration a more acceptable minimum. Other enhancements include full NIS client and server support, transaction TCP support, dial-on-demand PPP, integrated DHCP support, an improved SCSI subsystem, ISDN support, support for ATM, FDDI, Fast and Gigabit Ethernet (1000Mbit) adapters, improved support for the latest Adaptec controllers, and many hundreds of bug fixes.
We have also taken the comments and suggestions of many of our users to heart and have attempted to provide what we hope is a more sane and easily understood installation process. Your feedback on this (constantly evolving) process is especially welcome!
In addition to the base distributions, FreeBSD offers a ported software collection with thousands of commonly sought-after programs. At the time of this printing, there were over 6,000 ports! The list of ports ranges from http (WWW) servers, to games, languages, editors, and almost everything in between. The entire ports collection requires approximately 100MB of storage, all ports being expressed as ``deltas'' to their original sources. This makes it much easier for us to update ports, and greatly reduces the disk space demands made by the older 1.0 ports collection. To compile a port, you simply change to the directory of the program you wish to install, type make install, and let the system do the rest. The full original distribution for each port you build is retrieved dynamically off the CDROM or a local FTP site, so you need only enough disk space to build the ports you want. Almost every port is also provided as a pre-compiled ``package'', which can be installed with a simple command (pkg_add) by those who do not wish to compile their own ports from source.
A number of additional documents which you may find very helpful in the process of installing and using FreeBSD may now also be found in the /usr/share/doc directory on any machine running FreeBSD 2.1 or later. You may view the locally installed manuals with any HTML capable browser using the following URLs:
You can also view the master (and most frequently updated) copies at http://www.FreeBSD.org/.
This, and other documents, can be downloaded from ftp://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/doc/.
For questions about FreeBSD, read the
before contacting <questions@FreeBSD.org>.
For questions about this documentation, e-mail <doc@FreeBSD.org>.