FreeBSD - running a 'production' Operating System

Paper: 330
Session: G (poster)
Presenter: Kukulies, Christoph P., RWTH Aachen
Keywords: code management, commodity computing, network performance, PC operating systems, world-wide collaboration

"FreeBSD - running a 'production' Operating System"

Christoph P. Kukulies
I. Physikalisches Institut RWTH Aachen


The author describes the use of a free operating system at an
institutional site on a number of Intel i386 based PCs in
different application areas, such as routers, file- and
printservers for MS Windows PCs, PC workstations and multimedia
PCs for conferencing (MBONE) software.
FreeBSD (, a derivative of the well known 4.4 BSD
Operating System, is developed and maintained by a large
number of people who collaborate in the Internet. The author
describes methods used for maintaining a source tree of the
complete operating system and all its utilities (about 35,000
files), which is updated on a daily basis. These techniques
can be used in software development in general and can be
extrapolated to software maintenance in the area of High
Energy Physics software development. He also presents
arguments why he chose FreeBSD as his platform and not, for
example, Linux. These include networking stability, the
incorporation of security fixes into the operating system
quickly as they are reported from CERT, and the responsiveness
of the development team in the case of problems. Other advantages
of the way the FreeBSD operating system is being distributed
are pointed out, for one the 'monolithic' nature of the
FreeBSD distribution consisting of the kernel sources,
the OS sources and the wide variety of the so called 'ports'
and packages'. The latter providing a means of easily installing
additionial utilities and software packages whithout the
need of porting or recompilation. The 'ports' collection
has a built-in feature of allowing to fetch a port dynamically
from its 'mastersite' in the Internet in the case that
the software is not already locally available. This 'ports
collection' has already been adopted by a number of other
free unix distributions. In contrary to this uniform way
of distributing a free complete operating system the disadvantages
of the various Linux distributions available from different
vendors become clear.
One of the slogans of the FreeBSD project is "Turning PCs into
Workstations" which describes that the stress is laid
on stability and to get a maximum of performance out of
commodity hardware like todays' PC hardware can be considered.
Some figures on network performance will be presented.
Planned are at the authors' site the further investigation of
100Mbit Fast Ethernet for building local 'number crunching farms'
based on Pentium PROs, SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) and the
exploration of multimedia conferencing facilities.