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Distro description

NetBSD is an open-source Unix-like operating system descended from Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), a Unix derivative developed at the University of California, Berkeley. It was the second open-source BSD descendant to be formally released, after 386BSD, and it continues to be actively developed. The NetBSD project is primarily focused on high-quality design, stability and performance of the system. Due to its portability and Berkeley-style license, NetBSD is often used in embedded systems.

 

History
NetBSD was originally derived from the 4.3BSD release of the Berkeley Software Distribution from the Computer Systems Research Group of the University of California, Berkeley, via their Net/2 source code release and the 386BSD project. The NetBSD project began as a result of frustration within the 386BSD developer community with the pace and direction of the operating system's development. The four founders of the NetBSD project, Chris Demetriou, Theo de Raadt, Adam Glass and Charles Hannum, felt that a more open development model would be beneficial to the project: one which was centered on portable, clean, correct code. Their aim was to produce a unified, multi-platform, production-quality, BSD-based operating system. The name "NetBSD" was suggested by de Raadt, based on the importance and growth of networks such as the Internet at that time, and the distributed, collaborative nature of its development.
The NetBSD source code repository was established on 21 March 1993 and the first official release, NetBSD 0.8, was made in April, 1993. This was derived from 386BSD 0.1 plus the version 0.2.2 unofficial patchkit, with several programs from the Net/2 release missing from 386BSD re-integrated, and various other improvements. The first multi-platform release, NetBSD 1.0, was made in October 1994. Also in 1994, for disputed reasons, one of the founders, Theo de Raadt, left the project. He later founded a new project, OpenBSD, from a forked version of NetBSD 1.0 near the end of 1995. In 1998, NetBSD 1.3 introduced the pkgsrc packages collection.
Until 2004, NetBSD 1.x releases were made at roughly annual intervals, with minor "patch" releases in between. From release 2.0 onwards, NetBSD uses semantic versioning, and each major NetBSD release corresponds to an incremented major version number, i.e. the major releases following 2.0 are 3.0, 4.0 and so on. The previous minor releases are now divided into two categories: x.y "stable" maintenance releases and x.y.z releases containing only security and critical fixes.

 

Features

Portability
As the project's motto ("Of course it runs NetBSD" ) suggests, NetBSD has been ported to a large number of 32- and 64-bit architectures. These range from VAX minicomputers to Pocket PC PDAs. As of 2009, NetBSD supports 57 hardware platforms (across 15 different processor architectures). The kernel and userland for these platforms are all built from a central unified source-code tree managed by CVS. Currently, unlike other kernels such as µClinux, the NetBSD kernel requires the presence of an MMU in any given target architecture.
NetBSD's portability is aided by the use of hardware abstraction layer interfaces for low-level hardware access such as bus input/output or DMA. Using this portability layer, device drivers can be split into "machine-independent" and "machine-dependent" components. This allows a single driver to be easily used on several platforms by hiding details of exactly how the driver accesses the hardware, and reduces the amount of work needed to port it to a new architecture.
This enables, for instance, a driver for a specific PCI card to work whether that card is in a PCI slot on an IA-32, Alpha, PowerPC, SPARC, or other architecture with a PCI bus. Also, a single driver for a specific device can operate via several different buses, for example ISA, PCI, PC card, etcetera.
In comparison, Linux device driver code often needs to be reworked for every new architecture. As a consequence, in porting efforts by NetBSD and Linux developers, NetBSD has taken much less time to port to new hardware.
This platform independence aids the development of embedded systems, particularly since NetBSD 1.6, when the entire toolchain of compilers, assemblers, linkers, and other tools fully support cross-compiling.
In 2005, as a demonstration of NetBSD's portability and suitability for embedded applications, Technologic Systems, a vendor of embedded systems hardware, designed and demonstrated a NetBSD-powered kitchen toaster.
Commercial ports to embedded platforms, including the AMD Geode LX800, Freescale PowerQUICC processors, Marvell Orion, AMCC 405 family of PowerPC processors, Intel XScale IOP and IXP series, were available from and supported by Wasabi Systems.

Portable build framework
The NetBSD cross-compiling framework (also known as "build.sh") allows a complete NetBSD system for an architecture to be built from another system of different architecture (usually faster or with more hardware resources), even on a different operating system, since the framework supports most POSIX-compliant systems. Several embedded systems using NetBSD have required no additional software development other than toolchain and target rehost.

The pkgsrc packages collection
NetBSD features pkgsrc (short for "package source"), a framework for building and managing third-party application software packages. The pkgsrc collection consists of more than 12000 packages as of October 2012. Building and installing packages such as KDE, GNOME, the Apache HTTP server or Perl is performed through the use of a system of makefiles. This can automatically fetch the source code, unpack, patch, configure, build and install the package such that it can be removed again later. An alternative to compiling from source is to use a precompiled binary package. In either case, any prerequisites/dependencies will be installed automatically by the package system, without need for manual intervention.
pkgsrc supports not only the hardware platforms that run NetBSD, but also several other Unix-like operating systems, such as Linux, other BSD variants like FreeBSD, Solaris, Darwin/Mac OS X, IRIX, Interix and others. pkgsrc has also been adopted as the official package management system for DragonFly BSD.

Symmetric multiprocessing
NetBSD has had support for SMP since the NetBSD 2.0 release in 2004,which was initially implemented using the giant lock approach. During the development cycle of the NetBSD 5 release, major work was done to improve SMP support; most of the kernel subsystems were modified to be MP safe and use the fine-grained locking approach. New synchronization primitives were implemented and scheduler activations was replaced with a 1:1 threading model in February 2007.A scalable M2 thread scheduler was implemented, though the old 4.4BSD scheduler still remains the default but was modified to scale with SMP. Threaded software interrupts were implemented to improve synchronization. The virtual memory system, memory allocator and trap handling were made MP safe. The file system framework, including the VFS and major file systems were modified to be MP safe. Since April, 2008 the only subsystems running with a giant lock are the network protocols and most device drivers.

Security
NetBSD provides various features in the security area.The Kernel Authorization framework (or Kauth) is a subsystem managing all authorization requests inside the kernel, and used as system-wide security policy. It allows external modules to plug-in the authorization process. NetBSD also incorporates exploit mitigation features, ASLR, MPROTECT and Segvguard from PaX project, and GCC Stack Smashing Protection (SSP, or also known as ProPolice, enabled by default since NetBSD 6.0) compiler extensions. Verified Executables (or Veriexec) is an in-kernel file integrity subsystem in NetBSD. It allows the user to set digital fingerprints (hashes) of files, and take a number of different actions if files do not match their fingerprints. For example, one can allow Perl to run only scripts that match their fingerprints. The cryptographic device driver (CGD) allows using disks or partitions (including CDs and DVDs) for encrypted storage.

Virtualization
The Xen virtual-machine monitor has been supported in NetBSD since release 3.0. The use of Xen requires a special pre-kernel boot environment that loads a Xen-specialized kernel as the "host OS" (Dom0). Any number of "guest OSes" (DomU) virtualized computers, with or without specific Xen/DomU support, can be run in parallel with the appropriate hardware resources.
The need for a third-party boot manager, such as GRUB, was eliminated with NetBSD 5's Xen-compatible boot manager. NetBSD 6 as a Dom0 has been benchmarked comparably to Linux, with better performance than Linux in some tests.
User-space virtualization such as VirtualBox and QEMU are also supported on NetBSD.
NetBSD 5.0 introduced rump (Runnable Userspace Meta Programs), an architecture to run drivers in user-space by emulating kernel-space calls. The anykernel architecture allows adding support of NetBSD drivers to other kernel architectures, ranging from Exokernels to Monolithic kernels.

Storage
NetBSD includes many enterprise features like iSCSI, a journaling filesystem, logical volume management and the ZFS filesystem.
The WAPBL journaling filesystem, an extension of the BSD FFS filesystem, was contributed by Wasabi Systems in 2008.
The NetBSD Logical Volume Manager is based on a BSD reimplementation of a device-mapper driver and a port of the Linux Logical Volume Manager tools. It was mostly written during the Google Summer of Code 2008.
The ZFS filesystem developed by Sun Microsystems was imported into the NetBSD base system in 2009. Currently, the NetBSD ZFS port is based on ZFS version 13.
The CHFS Flash memory filesystem was imported into NetBSD in November 2011. CHFS is a file system developed at the Department of Software Engineering, University of Szeged, Hungary, and is the first open source Flash-specific file system written for NetBSD.

Compatibility with other operating systems
At the source code level, NetBSD is very nearly entirely compliant with POSIX.1 (IEEE 1003.1-1990) standard and mostly compliant with POSIX.2 (IEEE 1003.2-1992).
NetBSD also provides system call-level binary compatibility on the appropriate processor architectures with several UNIX-derived and UNIX-like operating systems, including Linux, other BSD variants like FreeBSD, Apple's Darwin, Solaris and SunOS 4. This allows NetBSD users to run many applications that are only distributed in binary form for other operating systems, usually with no significant loss of performance.
A variety of "foreign" disk filesystem formats are also supported in NetBSD, including FAT, NTFS, Linux ext2fs, Mac OS X UFS, RISC OS FileCore/ADFS, AmigaOS Fast File System, IRIX EFS and many more through FUSE.

 

Licensing

All of the NetBSD kernel and most of the core userland source code is released under the terms of the BSD License (two, three, and four-clause variants). This essentially allows everyone to use, modify, redistribute or sell it as they wish, as long as they do not remove the copyright notice and license text (the four-clause variants also include terms relating to publicity material). Thus, the development of products based on NetBSD is possible without having to make modifications to the source code public. In contrast, the GPL stipulates that changes to source code of a product must be released to the product recipient when products derived from those changes are released.
On 20 June 2008, the NetBSD Foundation announced a transition to the two clause BSD license, citing concerns with UCB support of clause 3 and industry applicability of clause 4.
NetBSD also includes the GNU development tools and other packages, which are covered by the GPL and other open source licenses. As is the case for the other BSD projects, NetBSD separates those in its base source tree, in order to make removal of code under more restrictive licenses easier. As for packages, the installed software licenses may be controlled by modifying the list of allowed licenses in the pkgsrc configuration file (mk.conf).

 

Logo
The NetBSD "flag" logo, designed by Grant Bissett, was introduced in 2004 and is an abstraction of their older logo,designed by Shawn Mueller in 1994. Mueller's version was based on the famous World War II photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, which some perceived as culturally insensitive and inappropriate for an international project.

 

The NetBSD Foundation

The NetBSD Foundation is the legal entity that owns the intellectual property and trademarks associated with NetBSD, and on 22 January 2004, became a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit organization. The members of the foundation are developers who have CVS commit access. The NetBSD Foundation has a Board of Directors, elected by the voting of members for two years.

 

Examples of use of NetBSD
NetBSD was used in NASA's SAMS-II Project of measuring the microgravity environment on the International Space Station, and for investigations of TCP for use in satellite networks.
NetBSD's clean design, high performance, scalability, and support for many architectures has led to its use in embedded devices and servers, especially in networking applications.
A commercial real-time operating system, QNX, uses a network stack which is based on NetBSD code, and provides various drivers ported from NetBSD.
Dell Force10 uses NetBSD as the underlying operating system that powers FTOS (the Force10 Operating System), which is used in high scalability switch/routers. Force10 also made a donation to the NetBSD Foundation in 2007 to help further research and the open development community.
Wasabi Systems provides a commercial Wasabi Certified BSD product based on NetBSD with proprietary enterprise features and extensions, which are focused on embedded, server and storage applications.
NetBSD was used in NASA's SAMS-II Project of measuring the microgravity environment on the International Space Station, and for investigations of TCP for use in satellite networks.
In 2004, SUNET used NetBSD to set the Internet2 Land Speed Record. NetBSD was chosen "due to the scalability of the TCP code".
NetBSD is also used in Apple's AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule products, instead of their own Mac OS X (which uses FreeBSD's userland) platform.
The operating system of the T-Mobile Sidekick LX 2009 smartphone is based on NetBSD.
The Minix operating system uses a mostly NetBSD userland as well as its pkgsrc packages infrastructure since version 3.2.