The open-source Debian operating system on Sunday gained support for the FreeBSD kernel, allowing users to run the same operating system on two different software cores.
The project was announced in a message to the Debian developers' announcement list.
Traditionally Debian runs on the Linux kernel, but Debian developers said the Unix-based FreeBSD kernel offers certain benefits, such as support for drivers that might not be available on Linux.
According to the message, FreeBSD compatibility was added via two architectures added to Debian's "unstable and experimental" archive, supporting FreeBSD on the Intel i386 and AMD64 hardware platforms. The project developing FreeBSD kernel support is called kFreeBSD.
Although support for different kernel versions or hardware platforms is routine, support for a kernel from a different operating system is unusual. Another example is Gentoo, whose Gentoo/Alt project aims to allow Gentoo software to run on a BSD core.
Users might prefer a FreeBSD kernel to get support for certain features, such as Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS) drivers and possibly Sun's ZFS file system, that might not be found on Linux, according to Debian developers. In a document defending kFreeBSD, they said some users have found FreeBSD to have better performance or stability than the Linux kernel.
"kFreeBSD offers an alternative in case Linux is branded illegal by the SCO case or other threats," the developers wrote. "In legal terms, Linux sources are like a minefield. kFreeBSD is much less vulnerable to such attacks."