Volunteers at FreeBSD.org this week began uploading what they say could possibly be the last and final version of its 4.x family to its main FTP sites and corresponding mirror sites for download.
The group (sometimes referred to as "beasties") says the upgrade can be installed directly over the Internet using the boot floppies or copied to a local NFS/FTP server. The software runs on x86-compatible, DEC Alpha, and PC-98 architectures. The popular server operating system is distributed in executable and source code form and is widely used in the network server environment, powering more than 2 million Web servers and 4 million Web sites worldwide.
The newest version -- 4.9 -- builds on the current 4.8 stable release of the popular and free version of the Unix operating system. Although the group has already distributed its next-generation FreeBSD 5.X family, the 4.x family is being fully developed to ensure a clear migration path.
"Since the FreeBSD 4.8-RELEASE in April 2003, we have made conservative updates to a number of software programs in the base system, dealt with known security issues, and merged support for large memory i386 machines with Page Address Extensions (PAE) from 5.1," FreeBSD Release Engineering Team member Murray Stokely said in a statement.
Stokely said many companies including The FreeBSD Mall, Compaq, Yahoo!, Sentex Communications, and NTT/Verio helped the cause by donating equipment, network access, and man hours to finance the release engineering activities for FreeBSD 4.9.
The group says the FreeBSD 4.9 release does not include all of the new technologies introduced with FreeBSD 5.1 in June. Instead, Release Team members say most developer resources are focused on improving the FreeBSD 5.X branch.
"This may very well be the last major release of FreeBSD 4.X," Stokely said. "The security officer team will continue to actively support the 4.X branch according to the normal policy. Additional 4.9.X releases may be made available when necessitated by security vulnerabilities or high-impact bugfixes."
Each CD or DVD set contains the FreeBSD installation and application package bits for the i386 ("PC") architecture. A set of distfiles used to build ports in the ports collection, is available in the FreeBSD Toolkit, a six-CD set containing extra bits that no longer fit on the four-CD set or the DVD distribution.
"We encourage all our users to evaluate FreeBSD 5.1 and the upcoming 5.2. Because PAE support has only been a feature in 4.X for a few months, it has not received wide-spread testing, and our most conservative users may wish to stay with FreeBSD 4.8 until they choose to migrate to 5.X," Stokely said.
Despite its support for the Alpha platform, FreeBSD is widely recognized as the "i386 version" of the BSD family. NetBSD is noted for its support of a wider variety of hardware, and OpenBSD is considered the most rigorously audited for potential security issues.
This article was originally published on SiliconValley.com