Ten Years of Software Opportunity 1991-2001

by Don Marti
Ten Years of Software Opportunity 1991-2001

Contests, kernel hacking, SBCs and much more to come.

In the ten years that Linux has been around, the Linux community has done some important things right, and the biggest is our low barrier to entry for developers. For little or no investment, you can be reading and modifying meaningful code. Naturally this means there are more web discussion boards, IRC clients and half-finished software doodads than anyone will ever need, but the opportunity Linux offers has resulted in a lot of good coding and testing, and a lot of big success stories, that wouldn't have happened with an inaccessible system.

This opportunity is one of the biggest challenges for embedded Linux because barriers to entry grow when the target platform is something other than universally available computer hardware. As an industry, it's important for us to make tools and information available to low-budget customers who are future contributors and partners.

ELJ will always try to keep the industry growing by opening doors to new embedded systems developers and entrepreneurs. And thanks to our contest sponsors, ZF Micro Devices, Tri-M Systems, LynuxWorks, M-Systems and O'Reilly and Associates, 100 independent developers got embedded Linux development kits. Some information on the winners is on page 8. Keep reading ELJ for announcements of future contests, as more vendors join us in making sure there's opportunity in embedded Linux, just as in Linux for generic computers.

If you're into kernel hacking, you'll thrill to the dramatic conclusion of Waël Hassan's guide to device drivers and an article on a new architecture: Mike Esch's on porting Linux to the Nios soft-core CPU.

Meanwhile, in user space, Java wizard Quentin Olson explains how you can exploit the advantages of Java for point-of-sale applications. Dr. Steve Mann and Corey Manders hack the X server to drive EyeTap displays for wearable computers. And Nathan Field introduces debugging techniques for embedded applications.

As we promised in our e-mail newsletter in September, Darren Hart slashes glibc's footprint with custom compilation, no source code changes, on page 19. Elementary C and C++ errors can turn into big problems when memory and debugging tools are limited. Jasper Kamperman lays down the laws of quality code on page 47.

Our first survey of embedded Linux distributions is on page 17. It's just a start though; there will be more coverage of the tools that the distributions offer in future issues.

The cover photo of chickens perched on SBCs? That's just to get you to read Michael Baxter's article on page 12. Single-board computers in many different architectures now offer Gigabit Ethernet and support a huge diversity of I/O standards. Michael explains how they can work for your application.

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