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FreeBSD Owes Apple Big

By Trollaxor in Op-Ed
Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 05:00:12 AM EST
Tags: Apple, Darwin, FreeBSD, Mac, Mac OS X, Unix (all tags)

The other day, while booting my eight-core 3.2 GHz Mac Pro with 32 GB RAM, I watched my system startup messages (nvram boot-args="-v") and thought of Darwin's origins at NeXT as a pastiche of academic research and hacker hobby. Darwin has come so far and exhibits the best of long-term software engineering. But while thinking of how far Darwin has come, I also thought of all it has given back to FreeBSD. By the time my Mac had loaded my desktop, I was at work researching just how much FreeBSD owes Apple.

The first improvements over the minimal FreeBSD 4 were removing the giant kernel lock (GKL), improving threading, and enhancing the I/O layer. It took the FreeBSD hackers this long to integrate changes Apple had released in first Mac OS X v10.1, which had come in 2001, and Mac OS X v10.2, released in 2002. In looking at the code and release dates it became clear that, had Apple not donated their work to the FreeBSD project, the hackers would have never gotten anything out the door on time, let alone a year after Apple had.

FreeBSD 6 was basically just a refinement of FreeBSD 5, allowing the BSD Project to tighten the code and better integrate some of the bleeding-edge Apple tech into their older codebase, kind of like Apple's upgrade Leopard to Snow Leopard but nowhere near as exciting or relevant. They also finally added the sorely-lacking WiFi support, FreeBSM security directly into the kernel, and finally banished the GKL once and for all. In all this time perfecting what should have been in FreeBSD 5, FreeBSD 7 became the Next Big Thing that would actually offer some new features.

It's funny that, now that Apple has slowed down, FreeBSD is releasing so frequently and it was FreeBSD 7 that picked up the pace to better match Apple's releases. It didn't hurt that they were also giving a world hungry for critical patches and cutting-edge releases what they wanted either. FreeBSD efficiently used SMP configurations now, supporting more than two processors, and borrowed filesystem journaling from Darwin. It also used Apple's own GCC4, which had been building Mac OS X since Leopard. And like Leopard, FreeBSD also integrated Sun's DTrace and a new scheduler. It was clear that by this point FreeBSD releases were almost entirely based on what Apple had done with Darwin the year or so prior.

As such, FreeBSD 8 is like a follow-on to Leopard itself: superpages, better DTrace integration, ZFS read/write, protected networking, ARM support, ≤ 16 TB RAM, SSE4.2, and remote home directories all read like an advertisement for Mac OS X and, not surprisingly, come directly from it. Darwin 10 will be the first truly 64-bit Unix and FreeBSD 8 will likely follow suit; this is the first time it's had clean a 64-bit kernel like Mac OS X has been doing for some time now. FreeBSD 8 is expected by the end of June '09, around the same time Snow Leopard, after which FreeBSD 9 will undoubtedly be on the drawing board...

So what is the actual numeration of what FreeBSD owes to Mac OS X? What value is there in all the goodies Apple has given to FreeBSD? Considering FreeBSD is considered "the" free Unixalike in the industry, the answer is quite a bit. Had FreeBSD not had its hand held by Apple during the early part of this decade, FreeBSD would look something more like NetBSD or OpenBSD: an idiosyncratic and lethargic technological backwater.

Quantifying it can only end up in the millions of dollars, if not tens of millions--numbers the FreeBSD foundation are not used to working with, being a not-for-profit outfit and typically scraping by on the goodwill of folks like Steve Wozniak and Robert Cringely or whomever might donate some old hardware here and there. In other words, FreeBSD owes its increased usage and visibility, not to mention its technological improvements, entirely to Apple. Without the philanthropical fruit company, free Unix would be starkly different world than it is today.

So how can the FreeBSD Project balance this debt to Apple? By merging FreeBSD with Darwin. Apple has already hired Jordan Hubbard, former FreeBSD czar, and would likely extend summer internships to others at the FreeBSD project. Merging the two would force the FreeBSD community to begin hacking on Darwin, the source of their technology anyway, and Apple would in effect be in control of the best of the BSD/OS, FreeBSD, Mac OS, and OPENSTEP operating systems. In the end, the only one with anything to lose is the FreeBSD Project, constantly playing catchup to FreeBSD's superior twin brother.


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FreeBSD Owes Apple Big | 68 comments (40 topical, 28 editorial, 0 hidden)
with FreeBSD stealing all their 'innovation' today (2.75 / 8) (#7)
by lostincali on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 09:07:10 PM EST

you have got to wonder why anyone would ever use FreeBSD when you can run a far superior Mac OS X on quality Apple hardware for server applications. i think it's very telling that Virginia Tech chose OS X for their monster System X supercomputer cluster installation.

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."

I know, really! (3.00 / 4) (#8)
by Trollaxor on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 09:08:52 PM EST

That's when my company started writing the POs so they could make the switch.

[ Parent ]
I found the apple I tested pretty unappealing (2.80 / 10) (#51)
by blackbart on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 03:35:58 PM EST

for example, when I started up the "Safari" browser, a 10 inch dick popped out of the keyboard and it started demanding (in Steve Jobs' own voice!) that it be sucked. I was sort of unnerved by that experience, but when I looked around, I saw all the potential apple customers viewing the dick, admiring it like a slut buying a gigolo and then one after the other started practically inhaling the dick, happy that they would soon be sucking this dick on a regular basis.

I just don't understand apples appeal in the market place unless there really ARE that many faggots.

"I use this dupe for modbombing and impersonating a highly paid government worker"
- army of phred
[ Parent ]

Please... (3.00 / 3) (#52)
by Trollaxor on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 05:49:27 PM EST

Tell me more...

[ Parent ]
I find it telling (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by Polyester Jones on Thu Nov 20, 2008 at 08:37:14 AM EST

that Apple supercomputers represent less than one percent of the vendor share in the supercomputing top 500.

When ideas fail, words come in very handy.
[ Parent ]
Concerning VT (none / 0) (#60)
by 7h3647h32in6 on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 05:20:05 PM EST

I have a feeling that since all of the libraries and the Math Emporium are also packed full of Macs, their use of the Mac OS for their System X has more to do with their faculties' love of Mac, more than some practical reason.

[ Parent ]
well, there is at least one reason (none / 0) (#64)
by zenofchai on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 11:21:23 AM EST

and that of course is cost, both of software and hardware, and of software upgrades and hardware maintenance.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
well, yes, of course (3.00 / 2) (#66)
by lostincali on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 07:12:13 PM EST

that is why so many clusters on the TOP500 list run linux on 386s scavenged from dumpsters.

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

I agree... (none / 0) (#67)
by k31 on Sun Dec 14, 2008 at 04:28:54 PM EST

Especially for small businesses or home offices, cost is a big factor... they are some uses for which some people would probably be happy to run a microcomputer connected to an old TV (perhaps Point-Of-Sale), rather than spend money on a monitor.

When credit is easy to get and cash flow is high, you tend to forget that not everyone has access to the liquidity needed to make timely investments.

Moreover, keeping FreeBSD free from direct corporate influence gives the possibility of independent innovation, whilst still benefiting from corporate innovations, eventually.

It might take some time but that's not really much of a concern if you want totally free, and good enough software... the chose to go with even better, but more expensive software is an option, and people who want it can take it.

Right now is a win-win, combining the two would be a loss for the free/cheap/good side and leave the bound/expensive/better side in the same position, so a lose-draw.

Your dollar is you only Word, the wrath of it your only fear. He who has an EAR to hear....
[ Parent ]

IGTT +1FP $ (3.00 / 4) (#9)
by Nimey on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 09:59:43 PM EST

Never mind, it was just the dog cumming -- jandev
You Sir, are an Ignorant Motherfucker. -- Crawford
I am arguably too manic to do that. -- Crawford
I already fuck my mother -- trane
Nimey is right -- Blastard
i am in complete agreement with Nimey -- i am a pretty big deal

Thank you for your feedback. (3.00 / 2) (#10)
by Trollaxor on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 12:40:21 AM EST

[ Parent ]
what the fuck? (2.66 / 6) (#11)
by balsamic vinigga on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 05:50:25 AM EST

seriously man...  with Free BDSM you get what you pay for.. I don't care how much coaching they got from that metrosexual LSD loving a*Y*rab Steven Blow Jobs...

i'm sick and tired of people claiming that unix is innovative. Bitch it ain't innovative, it's old as fuck, and it's still around because of momentum.

OS-X feels like too fucking os's.. unix, and the apple shit. that shit's not innovation. that's retarded. It's not like they were too cehap to buy up BeOS, which everyone thought they'd do, it was that steve jobs wanted his INFERIOR little pet unix project Next to get bought up instead.

Yeah sure I'm an apple fag and I use mac, but it's just sad that this piece of shit is the best shit we can do today.

God, when will someone make a good OS? I'm not holding my breath...

Please help fund a Filipino Horror Movie. It's been in limbo since 2007 due to lack of funding. Please donate today!

HELLO SIR HAVE (3.00 / 5) (#12)
by channel on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 09:10:25 AM EST


Marriage is a divine rite. It was part of God's design when He created man. - Royal Martyr Empress Alexandra Fedorovna.
[ Parent ]
what qualifies a good os (none / 1) (#29)
by totmacher on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 05:37:34 PM EST

that being said, you're totally right

-- I'll sum it up for yo: You = Douche bag ~ Butthurtapotamus
[ Parent ]
a good OS would be an integrated (3.00 / 3) (#41)
by balsamic vinigga on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 09:01:03 PM EST

cohesive system...  not a mishmash of technologies that don't play well together...  and doing shit with your computer would be come incrementally more difficult as you became more ambitious...  as it stands now most people never do anything with their computers because they hit a learning curve that looks like a wall that you need to spend years studying to overcome. Fucking absolutely unacceptable in this day and age.

Unix is a lot closer than windows but the problem with unix is its pipe archetecture is effective but retarded. And also X11 is even more of a disaster than OS X

Please help fund a Filipino Horror Movie. It's been in limbo since 2007 due to lack of funding. Please donate today!
[ Parent ]

I totally agree with your message (none / 1) (#61)
by Peaker on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 02:36:50 AM EST

But I am sure your delivery makes people think you're a troll :-)

You might be interested in:


Its just a prototype, and is far from complete and being usable as a whole desktop.

But I think that's the general direction desktops should be taking.

[ Parent ]

Sorry, but I can't understand you. (3.00 / 3) (#33)
by Trollaxor on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 07:37:28 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Uh, what? (3.00 / 3) (#15)
by BJH on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 10:16:29 AM EST

Darwin 10 will be the first truly 64-bit Unix

Yeah, in your dreams.

DEC OSF/1 on Alpha (15 years ago)
IRIX on MIPS (14 years ago)
Linux on Alpha (10+ years ago)

It's quite amusing that Apple hasn't been able to produce a 64-bit OS before this, considering that the hardware has been 64-bit capable since the G5.
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

I wish I could agree, but... (2.66 / 6) (#24)
by Trollaxor on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 01:30:29 PM EST

...you need to consider the kernels.

[ Parent ]
You don't know wtf you're talking about. (3.00 / 3) (#25)
by BJH on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 02:46:13 PM EST

Why am I not surprised?
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
If you're looking for something slower than OS X (3.00 / 2) (#57)
by afed on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 04:06:35 AM EST

any of those are a good choice.

[ Parent ]
Steve Jobs knew (none / 0) (#58)
by Trollaxor on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 08:56:17 AM EST

the G5 was a stopgap.

[ Parent ]
Mach kernel messaging is slow as molasses. (3.00 / 9) (#17)
by Chino Ginelli on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 10:47:15 AM EST

This may fly in the face of all we have been told to believe, but I speak in all cerealness.

In the time it takes to switch between two simple documents in TextEdit,


[something to co-ordinate with the chinos]

[Crawfordian psychiatric episode]

[some ridiculous closing scene, say, chasing a frightened hooker, menacingly waving a big floppy dildo down the sidewalk wearing nothing but a pair of sandals and having an entirely plausible reason for doing so, asserted with a straight face.]


"Can you recommend a Chino vendor?" - MichaelCrawford, Nov 2008

"[President Obama] likes em a little loose but not saggy. He likes a wool and cashmere blend. He rolls with an inch and a quarter cuff." - tdillo, Nov 2008

"I think they look sharp. But it's important that they be pressed, or at least hung properly, so as to maintain the crease." - MichaelCrawford, Sep 2009

"I find a bit of well-cut tailoring quite hot." - TDS, Jun 2010

Add more RAM. (3.00 / 6) (#19)
by Trollaxor on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 01:19:21 PM EST

I'm on a 2x1 GHz G4 machine with 1.5 GB RAM and never have problems switching between documents unless they're massive half-gig TIFF files or something. I think you might need more memories.

[ Parent ]
AIM LOWER (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by lostincali on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 05:21:40 PM EST

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

Exactly my thought, sir. (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by Trollaxor on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 07:37:50 PM EST

[ Parent ]
document switching isn't slow at all for me (3.00 / 2) (#42)
by LilDebbie on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 09:17:56 PM EST

but then, i'm running xp.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Say what? (2.50 / 4) (#18)
by mirleid on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 12:55:26 PM EST

Considering FreeBSD is considered "the" free Unixalike in the industry

Which industry are we talking about? Porn?

Darwin 10 will be the first truly 64-bit Unix

On a mac, maybe...But then again, nobody in their right mind actually runs mission critical applications on macs, so, who gives a shit?...

Chickens don't give milk
Indeed, sir. (3.00 / 3) (#20)
by Trollaxor on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 01:22:17 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Nobody owes Apple anything. (3.00 / 3) (#27)
by daveybaby on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 05:22:14 PM EST

Fuck Apple. Fuck them.

FIRST NETCRAFT (3.00 / 11) (#32)
by noogee on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 06:31:52 PM EST

It is official; Netcraft now confirms: *BSD is dying One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming close on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test. and so on

still here

Yes. (none / 1) (#37)
by Trollaxor on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 07:46:16 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Appel owes FreeBSD big, for a whole OS kernel (2.50 / 4) (#50)
by glowing tits on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 01:20:12 PM EST

This is ridiculous. Apple uses 90% of the source and we say that the FreeBSD owes them big? I mean has Jobs cast a spell on you or what?

Hi there, are you from Chernobyl? (3.00 / 2) (#55)
by it certainly is on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 02:05:33 PM EST

pix plz kthxbye

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

languishization. (none / 1) (#63)
by Zorkon on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 04:59:43 PM EST

The author is saying that without Apple's involvement, FreeBSD would have languished over the past few years ... and I can't entirely disagree with his assertion.

[ Parent ]
10/10 (3.00 / 6) (#53)
by MotorMachineMercenery on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 07:54:03 PM EST

+1 excellent troll (3.00 / 3) (#56)
by TRS-80 on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:53:19 AM EST

I especially like "Darwin 10 will be the first truly 64-bit Unix" and "Apple's own GCC4".

Beautiful (2.25 / 4) (#62)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 07:27:40 AM EST

Best AST I've seen in some time. I salute you, Trollaxor.

AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
Thank you, sir. (none / 0) (#65)
by Trollaxor on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 03:07:54 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Abstract Syntax Tree? (none / 1) (#68)
by Ron Paul on Sat Jun 20, 2009 at 12:09:24 PM EST

This [Ron Paul] Diary! has brought Kuro5hin back to life! HUZZAH

[ Parent ]

FreeBSD Owes Apple Big | 68 comments (40 topical, 28 editorial, 0 hidden)
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