Contest Frenzy!

by Don Marti

We're getting set for the Costa Rica trip for the winners of our first development contest, based on the PC/104 standard. A week in the Central American country with the most bandwidth, in March 2002, sounds like just what we need. Expect plenty of PC/104 and other embedded tips to come out of that trip; I'll bring my reporter's notebook and get as much information as I can onto the ELJ web site (

Meanwhile our second contest, centered around the New Internet Computer, is cooking along with hardware already in the finalists' hands. The good news is that you don't have to build an embedded Linux time machine to be a contest winner because we're doing yet another contest, with different hardware.

If your project proposal is selected as one of 20 finalists, you will receive the feature-licious Linux4.TV development platform, based on the National Semiconductor Geode SP1SC10 demonstration architecture for set-top boxes. This box has all the hardware you'll need for any TV-related projects--an NTSC/PAL controller, a CCIR-656 video input port, a Philips SAA7114 chip for NTSC and S-Video, and a Sigma Designs EM8400 chip for real-time MPEG-2 decoding. Hey! No drooling!

Criteria for selecting finalists will be:

  • Will the project either satisfy a real need or have aesthetic, entertainment or scientific value?

  • Does the person or team have the skills and/or motivation appropriate to carrying out the project?

  • Is the project different from other, previously constructed embedded Linux projects?

  • Does the project take advantage of the hardware and software available in the prize package?

In other words, if you say, "I'm going to make a TiVo clone'', we're not going to call you a loser, but you're sure not going to be a winner. The same applies if you're just going to make 1/256th of a Beowulf out of it--use that audio-video I/O capability!

The entry form, full schedule and official rules will be available from Proposals are due on February 20, 2002 and will be judged by us at SSC and by our sponsors at Linux4.TV and National Semiconductor.

As in previous contests, your entry should be in the form of a web site that includes all of your code, schematics and bills of materials for any additional hardware you build, screenshots and photos. Gregory Haerr's introduction to the Linux4.TV platform and the Geode SP1SC10 is on page 12.

Also in This Issue

Attention real-time Linux vendors and developers--Embedded Linux Journal is going to shine the pure white light of realistic benchmarks on the preemptible kernel approach vs. the two-kernel approach. Kevin Dankwardt explains the criteria for what is real time, and more importantly, the tools for measuring it, on page 6.

Maybe you want to use embedded Linux for a mobile net application, but development hardware can be expensive, and developing back-end code can take a while. EarthLink Research has done something about both problems with their SPARK kit, a car-rated, embedded Linux box with analog I/O, GPS, a Motorola Reflex wireless network interface and a web-based communication service. David Beckemeyer explains a sample application, a car temperature warning system, on page 16.

How do you pick the right software to create a GUI for your embedded device? Chuck Groom's development team started with a hand-drawn GUI (including arrows that cross widget boundaries) and implemented it pixel-for-pixel using GTK+, X and other freely available software. Read the story of extreme tweakage on page 29.

And, Kai Henning Simensen outlines the features of Qt Palmtop, which is source-code-compatible with the existing Qt applications but leaves out X, and includes a full Personal Information Management suite. See page 34 for details. Support for Qt Palmtop in KDevelop is upcoming.

Package management with an SQL database? It's a whole new way to manage software upgrades and rollbacks, pioneered by for their network management appliance. Phil Hughes interviews Inalambrica developer Alfredo Delgado on page 26.

On page 39, Steven Slupsky rolls out the dimmPCI platform--a tiny PCI-compatible form factor for industrial applications and other places where you need a small, rugged Linux box. And, it's based around the bargain-priced DIMM connector.

If you just need to snarf stuff over the Web and don't want to load up your device with code to do it, Alan DuBoff has the answer: libhttp, page 36. Update your device without hogging memory for an extra copy of the entire image.

Finally, CompactPCI cards can be hot-swapped, but how does Linux cope? John Mehaffey explains the bonding driver and high-availability networking on page 45.

Enjoy the issue; we're looking forward to seeing your contest proposals.

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