1.3. About the FreeBSD Project

The following section provides some background information on the project, including a brief history, project goals, and the development model of the project.

1.3.1. A Brief History of FreeBSD

The FreeBSD Project had its genesis in the early part of 1993, partially as an outgrowth of the Unofficial 386BSDPatchkit by the patchkit's last 3 coordinators: Nate Williams, Rod Grimes and Jordan Hubbard.

The original goal was to produce an intermediate snapshot of 386BSD in order to fix a number of problems with it that the patchkit mechanism just was not capable of solving. The early working title for the project was 386BSD 0.5 or 386BSD Interim in reference of that fact.

386BSD was Bill Jolitz's operating system, which had been up to that point suffering rather severely from almost a year's worth of neglect. As the patchkit swelled ever more uncomfortably with each passing day, they decided to assist Bill by providing this interim cleanup snapshot. Those plans came to a rude halt when Bill Jolitz suddenly decided to withdraw his sanction from the project without any clear indication of what would be done instead.

The trio thought that the goal remained worthwhile, even without Bill's support, and so they adopted the name "FreeBSD" coined by David Greenman. The initial objectives were set after consulting with the system's current users and, once it became clear that the project was on the road to perhaps even becoming a reality, Jordan contacted Walnut Creek CDROM with an eye toward improving FreeBSD's distribution channels for those many unfortunates without easy access to the Internet. Walnut Creek CDROM not only supported the idea of distributing FreeBSD on CD but also went so far as to provide the project with a machine to work on and a fast Internet connection. Without Walnut Creek CDROM's almost unprecedented degree of faith in what was, at the time, a completely unknown project, it is quite unlikely that FreeBSD would have gotten as far, as fast, as it has today.

The first CD-ROM (and general net-wide) distribution was FreeBSD 1.0, released in December of 1993. This was based on the 4.3BSD-Lite (Net/2) tape from U.C. Berkeley, with many components also provided by 386BSD and the Free Software Foundation. It was a fairly reasonable success for a first offering, and they followed it with the highly successful FreeBSD 1.1 release in May of 1994.

Around this time, some rather unexpected storm clouds formed on the horizon as Novell and U.C. Berkeley settled their long-running lawsuit over the legal status of the Berkeley Net/2 tape. A condition of that settlement was U.C. Berkeley's concession that large parts of Net/2 were encumbered code and the property of Novell, who had in turn acquired it from AT&T some time previously. What Berkeley got in return was Novell's blessing that the 4.4BSD-Lite release, when it was finally released, would be declared unencumbered and all existing Net/2 users would be strongly encouraged to switch. This included FreeBSD, and the project was given until the end of July 1994 to stop shipping its own Net/2 based product. Under the terms of that agreement, the project was allowed one last release before the deadline, that release being FreeBSD 1.1.5.1.

FreeBSD then set about the arduous task of literally re-inventing itself from a completely new and rather incomplete set of 4.4BSD-Lite bits. The Lite releases were light in part because Berkeley's CSRG had removed large chunks of code required for actually constructing a bootable running system (due to various legal requirements) and the fact that the Intel port of 4.4 was highly incomplete. It took the project until November of 1994 to make this transition, and in December it released FreeBSD 2.0 to the world. Despite being still more than a little rough around the edges, the release was a significant success and was followed by the more robust and easier to install FreeBSD 2.0.5 release in June of 1995.

Since that time, FreeBSD has made a series of releases each time improving the stability, speed, and feature set of the previous version.

For now, long-term development projects continue to take place in the 10.X-CURRENT (trunk) branch, and snapshot releases of 10.X are continually made available from the snapshot server as work progresses.

1.3.2. FreeBSD Project Goals

Contributed by Jordan Hubbard.

The goals of the FreeBSD Project are to provide software that may be used for any purpose and without strings attached. Many of us have a significant investment in the code (and project) and would certainly not mind a little financial compensation now and then, but we are definitely not prepared to insist on it. We believe that our first and foremost mission is to provide code to any and all comers, and for whatever purpose, so that the code gets the widest possible use and provides the widest possible benefit. This is, I believe, one of the most fundamental goals of Free Software and one that we enthusiastically support.

That code in our source tree which falls under the GNU General Public License (GPL) or Library General Public License (LGPL) comes with slightly more strings attached, though at least on the side of enforced access rather than the usual opposite. Due to the additional complexities that can evolve in the commercial use of GPL software we do, however, prefer software submitted under the more relaxed BSD copyright when it is a reasonable option to do so.

1.3.3. The FreeBSD Development Model

Contributed by Satoshi Asami.

The development of FreeBSD is a very open and flexible process, being literally built from the contributions of thousands of people around the world, as can be seen from our list of contributors. FreeBSD's development infrastructure allow these thousands of contributors to collaborate over the Internet. We are constantly on the lookout for new developers and ideas, and those interested in becoming more closely involved with the project need simply contact us at the FreeBSD technical discussions mailing list. The FreeBSD announcements mailing list is also available to those wishing to make other FreeBSD users aware of major areas of work.

Useful things to know about the FreeBSD Project and its development process, whether working independently or in close cooperation:

The SVN repositories

For several years, the central source tree for FreeBSD was maintained by CVS (Concurrent Versions System), a freely available source code control tool. In June 2008, the Project switched to using SVN (Subversion). The switch was deemed necessary, as the technical limitations imposed by CVS were becoming obvious due to the rapid expansion of the source tree and the amount of history already stored. The Documentation Project and Ports Collection repositories also moved from CVS to SVN in May 2012 and July 2012, respectively. Please refer to the Synchronizing your source tree section for more information on obtaining the FreeBSD src/ repository and Using the Ports Collection for details on obtaining the FreeBSD Ports Collection.

The committers list

The committers are the people who have write access to the Subversion tree, and are authorized to make modifications to the FreeBSD source (the term committer comes from the source control commit command, which is used to bring new changes into the repository). The best way of making submissions for review by the committers list is to use the send-pr(1) command. If something appears to be jammed in the system, then you may also reach them by sending mail to the FreeBSD committer's mailing list.

The FreeBSD core team

The FreeBSD core team would be equivalent to the board of directors if the FreeBSD Project were a company. The primary task of the core team is to make sure the project, as a whole, is in good shape and is heading in the right directions. Inviting dedicated and responsible developers to join our group of committers is one of the functions of the core team, as is the recruitment of new core team members as others move on. The current core team was elected from a pool of committer candidates in July 2014. Elections are held every 2 years.

Note:

Like most developers, most members of the core team are also volunteers when it comes to FreeBSD development and do not benefit from the project financially, so commitment should also not be misconstrued as meaning guaranteed support. The board of directors analogy above is not very accurate, and it may be more suitable to say that these are the people who gave up their lives in favor of FreeBSD against their better judgement!

Outside contributors

Last, but definitely not least, the largest group of developers are the users themselves who provide feedback and bug fixes to us on an almost constant basis. The primary way of keeping in touch with FreeBSD's more non-centralized development is to subscribe to the FreeBSD technical discussions mailing list where such things are discussed. See Appendix C, Resources on the Internet for more information about the various FreeBSD mailing lists.

The FreeBSD Contributors List is a long and growing one, so why not join it by contributing something back to FreeBSD today?

Providing code is not the only way of contributing to the project; for a more complete list of things that need doing, please refer to the FreeBSD Project web site.

In summary, our development model is organized as a loose set of concentric circles. The centralized model is designed for the convenience of the users of FreeBSD, who are provided with an easy way of tracking one central code base, not to keep potential contributors out! Our desire is to present a stable operating system with a large set of coherent application programs that the users can easily install and use — this model works very well in accomplishing that.

All we ask of those who would join us as FreeBSD developers is some of the same dedication its current people have to its continued success!

1.3.4. Third Party Programs

In addition to the base distributions, FreeBSD offers a ported software collection with thousands of commonly sought-after programs. At the time of this writing, there were over 24,000 ports! The list of ports ranges from http servers, to games, languages, editors, and almost everything in between. The entire Ports Collection requires approximately 500 MB. To compile a port, you simply change to the directory of the program you wish to install, type make install, and let the system do the rest. The full original distribution for each port you build is retrieved dynamically so you need only enough disk space to build the ports you want. Almost every port is also provided as a pre-compiled package, which can be installed with a simple command (pkg_add) by those who do not wish to compile their own ports from source. More information on packages and ports can be found in Chapter 5, Installing Applications: Packages and Ports.

1.3.5. Additional Documentation

All recent FreeBSD versions provide an option in the installer (either sysinstall(8) or bsdinstall(8)) to install additional documentation under /usr/local/share/doc/freebsd during the initial system setup. Documentation may also be installed at any later time using packages as described in Section 23.3.2, “Updating Documentation from Ports”. You may view the locally installed manuals with any HTML capable browser using the following URLs:

You can also view the master (and most frequently updated) copies at http://www.FreeBSD.org/.

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at http://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
Send questions about this document to <freebsd-doc@FreeBSD.org>.