Hack Embedded Linux for Fun and Prizes

by Don Marti

In the September issue, we said we'd help you learn about embedded Linux. And the best way to learn is hands-on, right? At LinuxWorld Expo in August, I ran into David Feldman, CEO of ZF Linux Devices, and we talked about the idea of doing an embedded Linux contest where we would offer our readers one hundred embeddable Linux computers to do cool projects with. That's right. One hundred.

A lot of phone calls and e-mail later, we got the hundred systems, Tri-M Engineering MZ104s, for you, our loyal readers. I now have a sample--it's a really small board--in front of me on my desk in the secret Linux Journal compound in Seattle, USA. It's a thing of beauty, a little bigger in surface area than a White Castle slider, but not as thick. See the cover photo.

The CPU is ZF Linux's MachZ, which is basically a Pentium-compatible and its support chipset in one small package. Other notable features on the board are serial and parallel ports, connectors for a floppy drive and IDE hard drives or CD-ROMs, and connectors for the PC/104 bus. Also installed is an M-Systems DiskOnChip--a flash disk.

A few words about PC/104 for those of you who haven't heard about it from browsing MIT's popular ``Wearable Computing'' web site. PC/104 is a standard for embedded computers, an ISA-bus PC where the motherboard and the add-on cards are all standard-sized 3.6 in. x 3.8 in. boards. The boards get attached together with screws and spacers at all four corners, making a PC/104 system much smaller and much more durable than a conventional PC.

Although the MZ104 is a complete system that runs Linux fine on its own, you'll be able to add PC/104 boards to give it a cool display, stereo sound, networking, a GPS receiver or whatever you like.

See Doug Stead's article on page 12 for more details on the MZ104 and on the hardware you'll get with it if you win--cables, the DiskOnChip, a 32 MB DIMM, a copy of Blue Cat, plus whatever else we happen to have a hundred of when we send them out early next year. Attention vendors: hint, hint.

So how do you get your hands on one and start hacking embedded Linux? Here's how it works. Send us your proposal for a cool embedded Linux device. Include enough information to answer the questions in the rules on page 11, so we know you're serious and can get an idea of what you're up to. We'll pick one hundred initial winners and send each of you a MZ104. Next fall, we'll review your projects and select a winner in each of five categories. The winners get an all-expenses-paid trip to beautiful Costa Rica.

Please check out our contest web site at http://embedded.linuxjournal.com/. We'll post technical information, set up a message board for questions about the hardware and the contest, and help you succeed with your project.

We're all looking forward to your entry.

Contest Rules and Overview


PC/104 Consortium: http://www/pc104.orgVendor listings for more than 160 companies that manufacture PC/104 hardware. Sound cards, GPS modules and more--use your imagination.

Wearable Computing Intro Page: http://mevard.www.media.mit.edu/projects/wearables/Serious fun with PC/104 boards. Any ideas?

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