FreeBSD v. Windows: In spite of the dominance of Microsoft Windows on the desktop, we really feel that there is no contest between FreeBSD and Windows. FreeBSD is incredibly stable, and boasts good security to boot. Windows, on the other hand, has been constantly plagued by security flaws, and is a frequent target for viruses, worms, and hacker attacks. Windows used to be so unstable that until Windows 2000 was released, Microsoft reputedly used FreeBSD as the server for microsoft.com! Obviously the one major advantage Windows has to offer over FreeBSD is applications--no OS can compare to Windows in terms of the sheer number of applications written for it. However, we believe that the vast majority of the applications used by the average Windows user can be replaced with equivalents or replacements on FreeBSD. Browse through the Applications for FreeBSD we've chosen to highlight in this Guide and see what we mean. The other advantage boasted by Windows is hardware drivers--Windows can use a lot of hardware that FreeBSD simply cannot. However, FreeBSD employs a number of very good generic hardware drivers and supports a lot of useful and modern devices (with the exception of most winmodems). This is not due to any superior architecture or development of Windows, but due to the choice made by many third-party hardware vendors to only write drivers for Windows, and to jealously guard the secrets of those drivers by keeping them closed-source. We applaud those hardware-vendors that support open-source by releasing enough information about their hardware to allow community developers to write drivers for it, and still more those vendors that take the time to write drivers themselves.
FreeBSD v. Linux: This is a closer call. We really have nothing against Linux. In fact, we like it. We just happen to like FreeBSD more. Although both are similar on the surface, under the hood they are two very different operating systems. FreeBSD is based on UNIX--it was born out of BSD UNIX. Proprietary AT&T code has been removed, but FreeBSD can trace its roots back into the 1970s. The Linux kernel, on the other hand, was written by Linus Torvalds as a UNIX-clone or UNIX-like system at the beginning of the 1990s. Lineage isn't everything, however. The main reason why we prefer FreeBSD over Linux is performance. FreeBSD feels significantly faster and more responsive than the several major Linux distros (including Red Hat Fedora, Gentoo, Debian, and Ubuntu) we've tested on the same hardware. (We're not claiming to have performed professional benchmarking tests--however, running the same versions of the same applications on each system demonstrated a considerable performance advantage of FreeBSD over the Linux distros we tried). Added to the performance advantage FreeBSD has over Linux is its stability advantage. Those are enough to make us choose FreeBSD over Linux. There are also usage variations--FreeBSD just "feels" nicer than Linux when we use and administer it. On the other hand, the majority of popular graphical applications for FreeBSD are originally written for Linux, and some are slower than others in being ported to FreeBSD. If you want the latest version of your favorite app and you want it yesterday, Linux allows you to live life on the bleeding edge moreso than FreeBSD. Still, most major applications make their way to FreeBSD in very little extra time, and most of us using FreeBSD prefer stability over getting the latest new feature immediately.
FreeBSD v. Mac OS X: Again, we have nothing against Mac OS X. I (Kevin) have 2 systems in my home--my ThinkPad running FreeBSD and my Mac OS X Panther system. Mac OS X is a great (and very easy to use) Operating System. It is also not free, and will only run on Apple hardware (which is more expensive than comparable PC hardware). It is difficult to criticize Mac OS X itself, since it is based on FreeBSD! ;) The UNIX-like base of Mac OS X (called "Darwin") is based on FreeBSD and Mach. Apple even incorporates improvements from recent versions of FreeBSD back into Mac OS X. Of course, why pay for the Apple hardware and Operating System when you can get FreeBSD for free? Granted, some really like the look of Mac OS X and all of its graphical tools (I do), but others (like Dan) prefer the simplicity, small size, and elegance of a window manager like Fluxbox on FreeBSD.
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