MYDATA's Industrial Robots

This company is using Linux to control industrial robots—here's why.
Drivers for the Free World

Most of the hardware in the MYDATA machines is manufactured in-house. This hardware is impossible for the average person to buy and would be useless unless he had a MYDATA machine. For this reason, we have not made the device drivers publicly available. In any case, MYDATA hardware is already bundled with the most up-to-date software available.

We do, however, use two pieces of hardware that can be used by anyone: the Decision PCCOM-8 multi port serial card and the parallel port to SCSI conversion cable from Shuttle Technologies called EPST. We contracted Signum Support, a Swedish consulting company specializing in GNU software, to write device drivers for these two. The contract states the device drivers are to have the GNU GPL license and that Signum should try to include the drivers in Linus Torvalds' next kernel release. These drivers are currently available and fully functional. Contact Signum Support at http://www.signum.se/ for download information.

From a purely economic point of view, we get a lot of beta testers for these device drivers free of charge. Even better, we get to give something back to the Linux community.

Installation Procedure

From a programmer's and lawyer's point of view, MYDATA supplies four different software packages that interact.

  1. The Linux operating system (free of charge)

  2. The device drivers for MYDATA hardware (as loadable modules)

  3. Application programs

  4. Servo programs (running on servo computers)

However, from the user's point of view MYDATA offers an industrial robot with hardware and a software system. The user is not usually concerned with implementation details such as the choice of an operating system.

Until now, the software installation and upgrades have always been done by service engineers. With the next generation of software we want to provide an installation CD-ROM which the user can use without a service engineer or thick manual by his side. The vision is that the user will insert the CD-ROM and the boot floppy, turn on the power and let the installation process automatically. Well, we might have to ask for an IP address. This installation CD-ROM is being developed in cooperation with Signum Support and is based on Red Hat 4.0 with a limited choice of hardware and added hardware detection.

Conclusions

MYDATA has managed to switch from an aging operating system to Linux with a reasonable amount of effort. In Linux we now have a modern operating system that will continue to grow with us for several years, and it gives us a solid foundation for future development.

Tom Björkholm is a 32 year old software engineer. He has used Linux since version 0.95. When not programming, he enjoys sailing. By the time you read this article, he will have left MYDATA to work for Ericsson Business Networks. He welcomes comments sent to Tom.Bjorkholm@ebc.ericsson.se, or by snail mail c/o Linux Journal.

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