Linux Kernel 2.6: the Future of Embedded Computing, Part I

With the release of the 2.6 kernel, Linux's position in the embedded world has been cemented.
Audio & Multimedia

With major vendors in the consumer devices market forming such associations as the Consumer Embedded Linux Forum (CELF), Linux is becoming the first choice among operating systems in the consumer devices market. To help with the consumer devices market, Linux 2.6 includes the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture, or ALSA. This state-of-the-art facility supports USB and MIDI devices with fully thread-safe, multi-processor-safe software. With ALSA, a system can run multiple sound cards and do such things as play and record at the same time or mix multiple audio streams.

Video4Linux, the system for supporting video, is all new in Linux 2.6. Although it is not backward-compatible with previous video paradigms, it is intended for the latest stable versions of radio and TV tuners, video cameras and other multimedia. And on a completely new track, Linux 2.6 includes the first built-in support for Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) hardware. This type of hardware, common in set-top boxes, can be used to make a Linux server into a TiVo-like device, with the appropriate software.

In Part II of this article, we look at human device interfaces, networking filesystems and 64-bit machines.

Aseem R. Deshpande is a software engineer who studied at the University of Pune in India. He has been working as an embedded software developer for the past year and a half. His other interests include Grid computing and helping people to "fall". He can be contacted at



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When the kernel changes, so does GLIBC & so much more.

Manish Kochar's picture

SafeSquid suffered from ugly and irritating crashes, or more appropriately - Segfaults.
With version SafeSquid 4.1.1 we have a remarkable difference, in performance.
We just had to throw away our efforts to remain complaint to older kernels, and force it to use NPTL, and the newer GLIBC, and the results are simply fantastic.

I compliment Aseem for this article, and specially the paragraph on "Improved Threading Model and Support for NPTL"

I don't where Aseem picked that comment "LinuxThreads is Brain-dead", but I can only agree that it is, and was driving us into our coffins too!

Re: Linux Kernel 2.6: the Future of Embedded Computing, Part I

Anonymous's picture

The article says "Although Linux 2.6 is not yet a true real-time operating system,[...] " and that's why the mainstream Linux kernels have a long way to go before they can be used in deeply embedded devices rather than high-end stuff like PDAs.

And then there's the memory footprint. I don't think vxWorks, eCos, RTEMS, Nucleus etc. have that much to worry about for a while yet.

Though Real-Time features are

ryotson's picture

Though Real-Time features are inserted into the kernel, the Linux as a whole is not real-time. With support for pre-emption points and new scheduler, soft real-time performance can be achieved.
Efforts were made and were also successful in deeply embeddeding the Linux. Now with the support for completely removing the VFS from Linux, we can created much compact kernel.

-- ryotson

No way

Anonymous's picture

No way. Read this, then tell me again "Linux is the future of embedded computing". It's very far from that!

Re: No way

Anonymous's picture

"However, they do not have knowledge or experience when it comes to developing or supporting tools."

Well, this phrase above fairly show us who have written that doesnt know what is saying.


Re: No way

Anonymous's picture

Arrey Asmya,
u must counter the charges this guy has presented...only then will it be a fair reading..

Re: No way

Anonymous's picture

The article is full of statements that have absolutely no data to back them up. Whilst I have never had the opportunity to code for an embedded platform, I would not base any kind of decision on an article like that. My first opinion when reading that article was that it was FUD from some company that develops tools for another embedded platform

Re: No way

Anonymous's picture

Be sure to read Kevin Dankwardt's rebuttal, sent as an open letter to the EE Times.

You may also wish to check the talkbacks posted here.


Pure FUD.

Anonymous's picture

I'm a professional commercial embedded systems developer, and there's no way I'm -NOT- going to use Linux in my projects from now on. The tools support is in fact -better- than from commercial vendors, in that i have full source for everything, the build systems available (gentoo/rock/oe) are all fully open and well-designed for the linux-kernel-hacker problems usually faced, and ... well ... the products will speak for themselves.

any 'professional' who tells you they can't use linux in their embedded product is either a) lying to you, or b) grossly incompetent.

linux is the easiest and most accessible embedded-system environment to start using!! no $15,000 'license fees' to pay before you can start building system images!!!

Re: Linux Kernel 2.6: the Future of Embedded Computing, Part I

Anonymous's picture

And the fact that Linux 2.6 integrates support for many more
hardware platforms and more I/O hardware doesn't matter at all?
I'm surprised!

For example, significant chunks of the ARM trees are now
merged, with more on the way. There's also lots of
support for some of the less mainstream I/O hardware that's
used in embedded systems ... like I2C (no longer separate),
USB Devices (the "gadget" API, contrasting to the host
side API), IPMI, and more.

In 2.4 kernels, support for hardware used on embedded
boards was a lot harder to find, unless it was basically a
cut-down PC (PC104 etc). But in 2.6, more of that is
part of the package.
That means a lot less work for anyone who wants to be
running Linux on their not-so-mainstream hardware.

Would you like tools with that?

Anonymous's picture

It's worth mentioning that
shows how to conveniently build and test a gcc and glibc
to go with the embedded Linux of your choice...