A Walk on the Embedded Side of LinuxWorld

Rick gives his impressions of all things embedded andembeddable at August's mega-Linux event.

Despite the somewhat subdued mood of this year's big West Coast LinuxWorld, there was near-universal agreement that one thing seemed to have grown stronger over the past six to twelve months: embedded Linux. Although the event does not particularly focus on the embedded market, a host of new products, technologies and strategies catering to the needs of embedded systems and smart device developers and manufacturers was unveiled and showcased. Everywhere you turned, you ran across companies embedding Linux inside PDAs, entertainment devices (especially TV set-top boxes), automotive telematics systems, thin clients, etc.

In the past, embedded Linux products and technologies accounted for roughly 10% of what was showcased at LinuxWorld. At this show, the embedded Linux fraction seems to have increased to around 15-20%, which is not surprising, given the strong growth in developer interest in embedded Linux reported in recent months by market analysts VDC, Evans Data Corporation, Embedded Systems Programming magazine, LinuxDevices.com and others.

For those unable to make it to the show, or whose attention was elsewhere, here's my traditional walk on the embedded side of LinuxWorld in which I offer a summary of all things embedded and embeddable (in alphabetic order). My apologies in advance, to anyone or anything I missed.

Applied Data Systems

Visitors to ADS' booth were treated to a dazzling array of LCD-adorned StrongARM-based, single-board computers—truly a hardware geek's paradise. ADS has created their own embedded Linux implementations that are offered as an option with all of their SBCs, but in addition ADS was showcasing three Java-enabled, graphically oriented application environments: Insignia's Jeode VM running on Lineo's Embedix, IBM's VisualAge Micro Edition running on MontaVista's Hard Hat Linux and Blackdown's JDK running on ADS' own flavor of embedded Linux. ADS also announced this week that they have been selected by Intel as a third-party platform provider for Intel's StrongARM and XScale processors and will be developing a modified version of their Graphics Master SBC for use as a reference platform by Intel customers. (See www.applieddata.net.)

Advantage Business Computer Systems

Tucked away at the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) booth, David Anders was showing off his company's tiny Linux system—definitely a cool little Linux box. Anders said a new version, which is coming out soon, adds a CompactFlash slot that facilitates system expansion and the use of removable media. Nice touch. (See www.abcsinc.com.)

A Tiny Linux System from Advantage Business Computer Systems

Century Embedded Technologies

Century occupied their usual position at a pedestal within Red Hat's large pavilion. Century's big announcement at the show was PIXIL, a respin and enhancement of its previous key products (Microwindows and ViewML) into a new suite of graphical environments, tools and applications targeting Linux-based PDAs, webpads and thin-client devices. Demonstrations included PIXIL running on a Compaq iPAQ PDA, as well as a PIXIL-based set-top box based on National Semiconductor's SP1SC10 set-top box development platform. Greg Haerr (Century's CEO) made the claim that, whereas the TV Linux Alliance Project is just at the point of beginning to define standards, Century/National's newly announced Linux4.TV is available for immediate use by customers and already provides support for both digital and analog TV, personal video recorder (PVR) functions and APIs for both kernel and middleware software interfacing. (See embedded.censoft.com.)


CodeWeavers demonstrated the recently announced CrossOver technology that allows Linux systems to use Windows browsers and application helpers. According to Jeremy White (president), an embedded version of CrossOver is being developed that will occupy on the order of 1MB of RAM and 4.5MB of storage. Unfortunately, the Windows plugins are sometimes quite greedy in terms of the system resources they require in order to run under CrossOver. CodeWeavers, a driving force behind WINE, can provide services for getting embedded applications to run on Linux under WINE or can port the apps directly to Linux APIs. (See www.codeweavers.com.)