Global software development in the FreeBSD Project

Yesterday I came across a study done by Diomidis Spinellis about the development of FreeBSD. It was written in 2006 but it still gives some useful insight in and statistics about the FreeBSD Project (How the FreeBSD Project works).

FreeBSD is a sophisticated operating system developed and maintained as open-source software by a team of more than 350 individuals located throughout the world. This study uses developer location data, the configuration management repository, and records from the issue database to examine the extent of global development and its effect on productivity, quality, and developer cooperation. The key findings are that global development allows round-the-clock work, but there are some marked differences between the type of work performed at different regions. The effects of multiple dispersed developers on the quality of code and productivity are negligible. Mentoring appears to be sometimes associated with developers living closer together, but ad-hoc cooperation seems to work fine across continents.

1 Introduction
FreeBSD is a sophisticated operating system available for a number of modern architectures. It is a complete operating system (rather than just a kernel, like Linux) derived from BSD Unix, the version of Unix developed at the University of California, Berkeley. FreeBSD, known for its stability and reliability, runs the servers of large portals like Yahoo and hosting providers like the Host Department; parts of it also form the basis for Apple’s Mac OS X. Given the global nature of the FreeBSD development model, the objective of this work is to examine its extent, determine its effects on quality and productivity, and explore how geographic distance affects cooperation among the project’s members.

Full paper

FOSDEM 2008 conference

fosdem conference logoFOSDEM 2008, the “Free and Open Source software Developers’ European Meeting”, is taking place in Brussels, Belgium, next month: February 23-24th. There will be a BSD/PosgreSQL room.

Transportation | Accomodation | Friday beer event |

Would be nice to hear who’s going to attend. I’m not sure myself yet whether i’m going or not. Would be nice to meet up with some of you guys.

FreeBSD software, ports and applications

To a lot of computer users, especially MS Windows users, FreeBSD is still covered by a cloud of “geekyness”. If people have heard of FreeBSD at all, they often think it’s a server operating system (which is not wrong) and that it comes with server software only (which is not correct).

Admitted, FreeBSD’s hardware support is not as good as Window’s or Linux’, but there’s no shortage of software for this operating system. It’s not only mail server, ftp server, network monitoring software etc that’s available for FreeBSD, but also video editing software, programs for creating PDFs, utilities to convert wav files to mp3’s etc etc. There’s an absolute wealth of programs, tools and utilities available; currently 17,968 so called FreeBSD ports (programs).

With this post I just want to point to a few sources that may help you can find software if you’re interested in using FreeBSD (incl. PC-BSD and DesktopBSD).

Those of you who are new to the “world” of open source software, have a look at the following two websites for an overview of open source equivalents for Windows software: linuxalt.com and linuxrsp.ru. Most, if not all, of the packages listed on these websites are also available for FreeBSD (as ports).

The actual FreeBSD ports directory can be found on freebsd.org or freshports.org (with search facility). To view the ports categories listed by groups have a look at this page on freebsd.org, this one on freshports.org or this one on freebsdsoftware.org. BSDapps.org lists a lot of commercial software packages, but the website doesn’t seem to be quite up to date.

You will gather from these links, that there are so many programs available that it can even be overwhelming. Hardware incompatibility may hold you back from adobting FreeBSD on the desktop, but the objection “there’s so little software for FreeBSD that I can use” is not valid ;-)

If you’re interested in using FreeBSD on your PC, you can either use a pre-configured desktop version (PC-BSD or DesktopBSD) or build it yourself from scratch.

GPL and BSD : impact

Very Grumpy Bunny has written a post comparing the GPLv2 and the BSD licence and explaining the difference when  applied to Amarok.

There are several BSD licenses, so many that you’ll typically see any particular license under BSD terms listed as a BSD-Style license. Example, the Vorbis and Theora codecs. The terms themselves are fairly simple.

#1: Anybody can access the source code
#2: Anybody can copy the source code
#3: Anybody can modify the source code
#4: Anybody can use the source code
#5: Anybody can relicense modified code

Sounds pretty simple, at least compared to the Gnu Public License. Here are the terms of say the GPLv2.

#1: Not everybody can access the source code.
#2: Everybody who can access the source code can copy the source code
#3: Everybody who can access the source code can modify the source code
#4: Everybody who modifies the source code must submit the changes back to the original author
#5: Everybody who modifies the source code must maintain the original license

That does seem a little bit more complex. Immediately we see that the GPL has restrictions placed on what can be done with the code. Ergo, the BSD-style license is more free… or is it?

Read the simplified terms of the BSD-License again. Note anything missing? Well, if you didn’t, here’s what is missing. Any changes that are made to the BSD code don’t have to be given back to the author. Anybody can take a segment of BSD code, do whatever they want with it, and never post any changes back, tell the author what they did, or anything else.

So, there is a critical difference between a BSD license, and a GPL style license. The BSD license adopts a care-free attitude about written software, while a GPL style license enforces restrictions around that software to make sure everybody benefits.

Whole post can be read here.

7 Linux/BSD firewalls reviewed (incl pfSense & m0n0wall)

Wayne Richardson reviewed in total 7 different Linux and BSD firewalls back in Nov 2007 (ClarckConnect, Endian, Gibraltar, IPCop, m0n0wall, pfSense, SmoothWall) and compared them on basis of the following categories: setup, web-gui, extensibility and speed.

Since this is a FreeBSD blog I’ll just quote (with his kind permission) what he wrote about pfSense and m0n0wall. If you’re interested in the whole article and want to see how the BSD firewalls compare to Linux firewall, please refer to Wayne’s article.

pfSense was named the best firewall with a 95% pass rate; m0nowall received a 77% mark and was the smallest of the bunch.
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The best of FreeBSD Basics – 2 reviews

Dru Lavigne’s latest book “The best of FreeBSD Basics” is now also available at Amazon.co.uk and has 2 reviews on Amazon.com.

Make no mistake about it…..Whether you are a novice or a system administrator, you need this book in your library. Unlike other FreeBSD books out there which basically copy the online handbook, Dru Lavigne compiled literally hundreds of FreeBSD tricks in this new book. You won’t be disappointed!

BSDA exam available from BSDCertification.org

BSD CertificationDru Lavigne has announced that the BSD Certification Group has finished the BSDA exam beta process and that it is now gone live. The BSD Associate certification marks the entry level for professional, community-based BSD certification, and work will continue to offer a certification for BSD Professionals (BSDP) next.

During 2008 the exam will be offered at technical conferences across the globe, in English only, and paper-based. The registration website for all BSDA exams is here. This site contains a calendar of upcoming events with details on each event. There is also a contact form should you wish to suggest an event.