CeBIT 2010: Debian with BSD Kernel

Mar 03, 2010

Debian developer Alexander Reichle-Schmehl presented Debian GNU/kFreeBSD at the Open Source Forum at CeBIT. The FreeBSD port should become an official part of the upcoming Debian version 6.0 free distro.

The new architectures kfreebsd-i386 and kfreebsd-amd64 will become a part of Debian's new offerings. The "k" in the name, Reichle-Schmehl indicates, is only that the FreeBSD kernel is involved and not the C libraries, for example. The FreeBSD kernel currently in use is version 7.2, with an update to 8.0 possible. The operating system should provide the "best of both worlds," the stable BSD kernel and Debian's package management and infrastructure.

Benchmarks for Linux and BSD kernel performance aren't yet established, Reichle-Schmehl admits, but there are other benefits: the BSD kernel is developed in clearer structures and has more stable interfaces, such as for the device files. Then also are features not available with Linux, such as the Pf BSD package filter, the ZFS filesystem from Sun, dtrace and BSD Jails. Even the NDIS driver is now in the kernel. A downside is that some Linux-specific software won't run, such as requires INOTIFY or ALSA. As usual, the Debian project removes firmware binaries from the kernel that don't strictly fit its free software guidelines.

What's still missing from GNU/kFreeBSD as a complete operating system? ZFS and Fuse are not yet available as binary packages and IPv6 integration is missing for the route command and others (currently only IPv4 is supported). Also still in the works is a compability layer for the Linux kernel's INOTIFY interface. At present 15% of the Debian package archives don't work with the BSD port.

Debian GNU/kFreeBSD is currently available for download and testing from the port's homepage. A mailing list can provide help. Debian's system can be seen at the Univention booth at CeBIT in Hall 2 B36.

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Comments

  • Why Bother?

    Seems to defeat the point of BSD. BSD fans will tell you the difference between Linux and BSD is that BSD is an integrated whole, not a collection of mix-and-match bits.
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