FreeBSD back in familiar hands

The popular FreeBSD open-source version of the Unix operating system is back under the control of one of its original developers after long-time sponsor Wind River Systems Inc. announced Monday that it will divest of all its assets related to the freely distributed code.

Wind River has transferred its FreeBSD development team and all its operations related to the operating system to open-source software maker FreeBSD Mall Inc., a newly named company led by Bob Bruce, who first distributed FreeBSD commercially in 1993. Bruce is the founder of Walnut Creek CDROM, which this month changed its name to FreeBSD Mall.

The best way to ensure the continuity and vitality of FreeBSD is to return it to its roots, said Larry Macfarlane, senior director of Wind River's application platforms product division, in a statement Monday.

Under terms of the deal, FreeBSD Mall will assume responsibility for all service and support contracts with customers who licensed the free version of the operating system from Wind River. It will also be responsible for funding and marketing the work done by FreeBSD developer community, as well as distributing FreeBSD software.

The company previously announced that it plans to sell commercial versions of FreeBSD software in U.S. retail outlets such as Best Buy Co. Inc., CompUSA Inc. and through Amazon.com Inc., with plans to move into European and Asian markets later this year.

FreeBSD is a version of Unix developed at the University of California at Berkeley. Developers are free to use and alter the software's code base and also are allowed to create proprietary versions of the operating system for commercial use.

The operating system is used to run some large Internet sites, including Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail service and the Web sites of Sony Corp. and Yahoo Inc. FreeBSD is also at the root of Apple Computer Inc.'s new Mac OS X operating system and the open-source project it is based on, called : "Darwin."

Wind River assumed the sponsorship role for the FreeBSD open-source project in May 2001 when it acquired assets of Berkeley Software Design Inc. (BSDi), the former sponsor of FreeBSD. A year earlier, BSDi merged with Walnut Creek CDROM combining its open-source work with the commercially distributed software.

In addition to gaining sponsorship of the open-source project, Wind River also acquired a proprietary commercial version of the operating system called BSD/OS. Wind River will maintain rights over the BSD/OS, a product it sells to manufacturers that build computing devices such as network storage hardware, the company said Monday.

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