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The design and implementation of the FreeBSD operating system (2nd ed.)
McKusick M., Neville-Neil G., Watson R., Addison-Wesley Professional, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2014. 928 pp. Type: Book (978-0-321968-97-5)
Date Reviewed: Nov 24 2014

BSD UNIX is perhaps one of the most influential operating systems (OS) other than Microsoft Windows. Now more than 40 years old, its features and technologies continue to shape modern OS research, development, and computer science (CS) education. Although not as widely deployed as Linux or commercial UNIX offerings, BSD UNIX is still used in many web and embedded applications. It is the foundation of Apple’s OS X operating environment. Additionally, many of its commands and tools are implemented in System V UNIX-based operating systems such as Oracle Solaris, IBM AIX, and Hewlett-Packard HP-UX. FreeBSD is the most popular implementation of BSD UNIX, and is fully open-source licensed.

The coauthors of this book hardly need introduction, as they have long been contributors and promoters of the OS from its first release in 1993, and they continue to guide its future development through their membership in the FreeBSD Foundation Board of Directors.

This 900-page volume is a complete and thorough technical review of the current FreeBSD 10 release. It is directed at BSD system administrators, OS researchers, and CS educators. The book can serve as a supplemental textbook for advanced OS courses in university CS curricula, as it includes exercises and research questions appropriate for graduate study. The book is not a tutorial for FreeBSD users, however; there are such books available from No Starch Press and from other publishers.

As expected for such a book, typical OS concepts and implementations such as processes, memory management, input/output (I/O) and file systems, networking, and security are given thorough treatment, and the descriptions are well written and understandable. One especially interesting area of coverage is jails, a lightweight virtualization method that is the precursor to today’s container technologies found in Oracle Solaris, Linux, and other operating systems. Additionally, the modern ZFS file system, first introduced in Sun’s Solaris 10 OS, is fully implemented in FreeBSD, as well as the powerful DTrace observability architecture and tools.

Key chapters in the book cover essential OS concepts such as synchronization, caching, and multiprocessing. The final chapter on system startup and shutdown is a welcome addition, as it gives a detailed explanation of the OS boot process and device initialization, as well as reboot and service termination.

The authors have included voluminous technical and historical references about operating systems in general and BSD UNIX in particular. Furthermore, there is a comprehensive glossary of terms that is valuable in its own right, and a list of FreeBSD training materials that includes videos and CS curriculum course materials.

In summary, this is the definitive technical volume on the FreeBSD OS. Readers new to that OS should still seek usage tutorials, but more advanced administrators, researchers, and CS educators would not find a more valuable resource for this operating system.

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Reviewer:  Harry J. Foxwell Review #: CR142963 (1502-0118)
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