Linux on Wheels: A New Opportunity
Linux fans may be aware of the Empeg in-dash MP3 player, a Linux-powered computer that stores and plays back gigabytes of MP3 files in the car. (See “MP3 Linux Players” by Craig Knudsen, LJ, July 1999.) The Empeg player is an undeniably cool device, but it is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Within five years, almost every car will have a powerful computer that provides a variety of services. Linux is a contender to win a large share of this market, which has no dominant player and will generate tens of millions of sales per year.
Modern automobiles are already a seething mass of computing resources, packing anywhere from 30 to 80 networked microprocessors that control windows, doors, airbags, lights, gauges, brakes, engine timing, temperature and anything else that moves or changes. These inexpensive chips are too small and slow to run Linux. But now automobile equipment makers are planning to take the next step, turning the car into a “$30,000 wireless Internet device,” says Mike Iannitti, director of Intel's In-Car Computing Division, with only a hint of a smile.
Several concepts are converging to make an in-dash computer appealing. Various single-function devices exemplify these concepts today. The Empeg player, for instance, brings to the car the advantages of MP3, including instant access to a huge number of songs. Other digital music formats, such as digital FM radio and satellite radio, will become popular in the next few years, all requiring some sort of decompression software. A programmable platform will be flexible enough to handle new algorithms and protocols. Within five years, any car without these capabilities will be as out of date as a car with an AM radio and an 8-track player is today.
Navigation assistance is a second useful feature. Some high-end vehicles and rental cars come equipped with GPS systems that determine the car's location and plot a route to a specified destination, often providing audible directions (“turn left in 100 feet”). Anyone who has ever gotten lost while driving will appreciate the value of such a system. And unlike backseat drivers, it can be turned off.
A third area is safety and security. General Motors already has 150,000 customers for its OnStar system, which uses the GPS and a cell phone to contact a call center if the vehicle crashes or is stolen, providing the car's exact location. The call center can also unlock the car's doors if you forget your keys, and can help with other problems. Future systems could improve security by validating a voiceprint or fingerprint before allowing the engine to start.
Another helpful function is information access. This doesn't mean running a browser on the dashboard; rather, it is an intelligent mechanism for retrieving and delivering relevant information such as traffic reports, restaurant or ATM locations, or even just e-mail messages. The OnStar call center can direct a driver to a nearby hotel or restaurant. Other services already provide wireless Internet access.
Voice recognition will be a key feature in these car computers, as people can't type or press buttons at the same time they're trying to drive. By the end of this year, Delphi will begin shipping a Palm V docking station that allows drivers to access address and datebook entries using voice commands. The unit has a built-in cell phone that can be “dialed” using voice or by selecting an address book entry. Each of these functions is appealing to certain drivers. But the combination of these functions, particularly if the price is right, will be unstoppable. Acceptance of in-dash computers will be driven by two factors: platform standards and price.
Today's first-generation products typically cost $800 to $1,000 and perform only one or two of the functions listed above. Current prices are bloated, because upfront development costs must be spread across a small number of units. As production volumes rise from tens of thousands to tens of millions, prices will drop dramatically. The cost of key components, such as microprocessors, flash memory and GPS receivers, is also falling due to normal semiconductor trends. For example, a GPS chipset that cost $100 two years ago sells for about $30 today, and will drop to $10 in another two years. These trends will help bring the price of an in-dash computer down to a few hundred dollars within the next few years.
The value of an in-dash computer will increase as vendors realize that all of the important functions require a fast microprocessor, a flexible operating system and a wireless interface. Combining digital music, navigation, information access, security and voice recognition into a single device will add little hardware cost but significant end-user value. The bigger difficulty is in creating the necessary software, particularly since new technologies and services are likely to continue to be developed after the car is purchased. Digital music formats are in flux and not likely to settle down for at least a few years. Information services will continue to evolve, and the broad deployment of car computers will undoubtedly spur a new round of innovation.
Ideally, the car computer should be built around a standard platform that allows third parties to develop applications. Without a standard, consumers will be confused and application development stunted. Microsoft hopes to play this role with Windows CE, which is used in Delphi's Palm V dock, Clarion's AutoPC and Visteon's ICES among others. But Linux's low cost, simplicity and open-source model should be attractive to auto equipment makers. WinCE faced little competition for these early systems, but more recently, a throng of embedded Linux vendors has risen to the challenge. The stakes are high. Worldwide auto sales totaled 54 million last year, about half the size of the desktop PC market. Full-function in-dash computers will appear as standard equipment in some model-year 2002 cars (just over a year from now) and will move rapidly through the product lines. Ford, for example, boldly claims that all its cars will have Internet capability within three years. This hot new market gives Linux the opportunity to establish itself as the platform of choice.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide