The two operating systems are generally very similar, but they have some important differences:
Linux behaves more like System V UNIX, while NetBSD is more similar to the Berkeley flavors of UNIX. From an end user perspective, Linux tends to support more and newer hardware, and tends to have a larger share of users. NetBSD tends to support less new hardware, but its support for existing hardware is always very solid. Linux comes in several
distributions from different groups such as RedHat, Debian, Caldera, and Slackware, whereas NetBSD has only one distribution.
NetBSD also supports more platforms. At the time of this writing, NetBSD supports DEC Alpha, Amiga, Acorn ARM, Atari, HP 9000/300, i386-family PC, m68k Macintosh, m68k MVME, PC532, DEC MIPS, Sun SPARC, Sun3, Sun 3x, DEC Vax, and Sharp X680x0. Linux supports DEC Alpha, i386-family PC, Sun SPARC, m68k systems (such as Amiga and Atari),and Power Macintosh. A port for the MIPS processor is also currently being developed. On both NetBSD and Linux, however, the Athena environment has only been ported to the i386-family PC. However, at this time, Information Systems does not offically support either of these platforms, and differences between them and the supported Athena platforms present in the clusters are likely to remain.
Both Linux and NetBSD exist currently as ports of MIT’s Athena computing environment, and are developed and maintained by SIPB (the Student Information Processing Board). As of the time of this writing, SIPB has chosen to support the RedHat distribution of Linux, with the currently released version being 5.2. NetBSD is preparing to release a port of the Athena environment based on NetBSD 1.3.1. For this port, they have chosen to integrate their work very closely with the Athena mainline, with the result being that computers running NetBSD-Athena 1.3.1 will be closer in their inner workings to the types of Athena workstations found in the clusters (Suns and SGIs) then will a
computer running the most recent distribution of Linux.
More information on both of these platforms can be found by visiting the pages: