REVIEW - The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System


The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System


Marshall Kirk McKusick, George V. Neville-Neil, Robert N. M. Watson


Addison-Wesley Professional (2014)




Alan Lenton


May 2015



Reviewed: May 2015

There are some books that the word ‘comprehensive’ doesn’t even come near to describing. This is one such book! If you want to know the details of any part of the FreeBSD operating system then this, together with the source code, is the reference book for you.

The book doesn’t just cover the workings of the kernel, it also goes into details of the I/O systems, IPC, and startup/shutdown (init, of course. If you want the newfangled, monolithic, systemd, you need to look elsewhere). I found the IPC section particularly useful. I have other books that cover the issue, but I found the exposition in this book very clear and in depth.

‘Since FreeBSD is a ’nix, much of what is in this book is relevant to other variants of Unix, and while an application programmer might not need to know what’s going on under the hood, any more than you need to be a car mechanic to drive a car, it certainly helps to write efficient programs.

For someone studying operating systems at college, this book should be high on the ‘must have’ list, you would have to buy several other books to cover the topics in the depth it does. Even then, the coverage wouldn’t have the cohesiveness this book has.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in modern Unix operating systems. You may be able to get cheaper books, but you won’t get one that’s so comprehensive!

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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