The Tip of the Embedded Linux Iceberg

“Show me the Linux!” you say? Embedded Linux-based technology is closer than you think.
TV Set-Top Devices

Nokia Media Terminal Set-Top Box--This device adds a broad range of Internet-based services to your normal TV set. Among the services available are digital audio/video, digital TV, video-on-demand, cached TV programs, web access, e-mail and chatting, games/gaming and many web-based software applications. The Media Terminal's internal software is based on Linux, the Mozilla open-source browser, X Window System, plus a unique user-interface technology called “Nokia Navi bars”. The embedded computer is a 366MHz Intel Celeron CPU with the Intel 810 chipset, plus 32MB SDRAM and a minimum 20GB hard disk. See details at

Figure 6. Nokia Media Terminal

Indrema Set-Top Gaming System--The Indrema Entertainment System (IES) is a set-top device that converts a TV into a high-end gaming system. The device is packaged in a sleek enclosure with the look and feel of a top-of-the-line VCR. It offers a choice of dialup or broadband Internet access (it has a built-in 10/100MB Ethernet controller) and comes with a game controller. The embedded computer is based on a high-end “X86” processor, plus 64MB RAM and up to a 50GB hard disk. High-speed graphics are generated by means of an upgradeable plug-in module, which initially uses an an NVIDIA GPU. The embedded operating system is DV Linux, an open-source Linux port targeted to gaming systems. See details at

Figure 7. Indrem Set-Top Gaming System

TiVO--The TiVO “personal video recorder” represents what may well be the most well-known Embedded Linux system in existence. It also represents one of the first consumer appliances to make use of Embedded Linux. The device is based on a 54MHz PowerPC 403GCX processor with 16MB of RAM, plus a large capacity hard disk for up to 30 hours of TV program storage. Surprisingly, video is not generated in a computer-like manner but is instead based on a graphics rendering chip. Hence, the device contains a home-grown port of Embedded Linux but neither uses nor requires either a windowing system or GUI framework. See details at

Figure 8. TiVo


FrontPath ProGear Wireless Webpad--A wireless Linux-based portable information appliance targeted to vertical market segments. The device supports various rich media formats, includes a 10.4" TFT display and obtains user input from either a virtual keyboard or handwriting recognition on its touchscreen. See details at

Figure 9. FrontPath ProGear Wireless Webpad

Screen Media FreePad--An easy-to-use, full-featured webpad that provides a complete set of communications and computing functions including web browsing, e-mail, telephone and answering machine functions, PDA functions and Smartcard terminal functions. The device has a large (10.4") LCD screen, touch input, built-in DECT wireless technology and provides a USB interface for external (wired) expansion. The processor is a 166 MHz MediaGX with 32MB internal RAM plus a 16MB internal flash disk. The embedded operating system is Linux, the windowing system is Nano-X from the Microwindows project and the browser is from Opera. See details at

Figure 10. Screen Media FreePad

Audio Entertainment Devices

Kerbango Internet Radio--Connected to the Internet via a phone line, Ethernet or a USB-connected networking interface, Kerbango Internet Radio's internal embedded computer is based on an 80MMHz Motorola PowerPC system-on-chip processor along with 8MB of RAM and 8MB of flash storage memory. The Embedded Linux operating system is based on MontaVista Hard Hat Linux with the addition of the unique Kerbango Audio Operating System (KAOS), which provides easy-to-use features for user interface, network setup, etc. In addition to “receiving” radio stations via the Internet connection, the device includes a conventional FM radio receiver and built-in FM antenna. See details at

Figure 11. Kerbango Internet Radio

Diamond Rio Audio Receiver--This home audio receiver, which won ZDNet's first-ever “Tech Trendsetter” award, enables consumers to stream MP3 music from a PC to any room in the house, giving consumers access to MP3 music via their living room stereo where they were previously limited to portable digital audio players. Its embedded computer is based on a Cirrus Maverick system-on-chip processor running Embedded Linux. See details at

Figure 12. Diamond Rio Audio Receiver

PhatNoise PhatBox Car MP3 System--The PhatBox car audio system, which won “best overall product” at the Third Annual MP3 Summit, gives consumers the capability to take MP3 music files from their PC and listen to them in the sound system of their car. Its embedded computer is based on a 74MHz Cirrus Logic EP7212 system-on-chip processor, running Embedded Linux. See details at

Figure 13. PhatNoise PhatBox Car MP3 System

empeg Car MP3 System--The empeg car (now in its second revision) is an in-dash digital music player with a capacity of up to 600 hours of high-quality music. Connected to a PC to receive downloaded MP3 files via USB, Ethernet, or a serial port, and can store over 600 hours of music on a pair of internal laptop-style hard drives. Inside, there's a 220MHz Intel StrongARM system-on-chip processor, 12MB RAM, and 1MB flash for bootstrap. See details at

Figure 14. empeg Car MP3 System