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There was much activity around Linux in embedded systems this week, as a result of the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose. This conference looks to be a bit of a watershed event - the occasion where Linux takes the embedded systems stage. And this is a big stage - some 68,000 people are attending. It is time to see if all the rosy predictions for Linux in the embedded area start to come true.

So, what happened this week?

  • Cygnus Solutions announced the EL/IX embedded Linux API. The stated goal of EL/IX is to "pre-empt the fragmentation of embedded Linux," a threat that has not been the source of a great deal of concern in most circles.

    EL/IX sets out to achieve this goal by providing a standard applications programming interface based on the POSIX real time Unix standards. Since Linux already implements almost all of this interface, EL/IX's implementation will not be too difficult. However, EL/IX will also provide the same API on Cygnus' eCos - an open source system specifically designed for deeply embedded systems.

    Thus Cygnus' strategy is reasonably apparent - they want to make it easy for developers to make their code work under Linux, then deploy on eCos. It is a worthy goal, which should certainly help to increase the penetration of open source software into embedded systems. It should also help Cygnus maintain its strong position in the embedded market. (See also: this press release from Cygnus about eCos - 15,000 downloads so far).

  • Lineo (formerly Caldera Thin Clients) put out its embedded systems road map. Their plan is centered around "Embedix," a derivative of OpenLinux which is intended for embedded applications. Embedix contains a lot of changes aimed at the constraints found in embedded situations; among other things, it will be able to run out of flash ROM. Embedix initially will run on Intel processors, with MIPS and StrongARM to follow.

    Lineo is also working on "Embrowser," an embedded web browser which is intended for applications like set-top boxes, kiosks, etc. The first deployment has already been announced: MeterNet is building a set-top box using Embedix and Embrowser.

    Lineo is aiming at becoming the standard platform for high-end embedded systems. They have no "lightweight" system like eCos to push for "deeply embedded" applications (unless you count DR-DOS, which appears to be heading toward the end of its life). Instead, they are pushing Linux all the way. Does their approach encourage the fragmentation that Cygnus warns about? Perhaps, but remember that Embedix remains an open source system.

  • Force Computing announced a demonstration of its "Centellis 8730" system running Hard Hat Linux. Their approach is a combined hardware and software system which can be used in embedded applications.

  • emWare announced the availability of its "EMIT emGateway" software for the Linux platform (Red Hat only, initially). EMIT is a lightweight networking protocol for embedded devices which are not able to run a full TCP/IP stack; emGateway allows a Linux system to talk to such devices. That puts Linux in a controller position - talking to many embedded devices, making their services available, and managing them remotely.
It is an impressive set of announcements, which shows the degree of interest in Linux in this environment.

LWN's Liz Coolbaugh is at the Embedded Systems Conference this week. As of press time, we have her first report from the floor there. It appears to be an exciting time for Linux in the embedded systems arena.

Web 100, Linux, and high-performance networking. How can we get our systems to make better use of the high-bandwidth links used in the modern Internet? A project called "Web 100," currently in the early stages, is looking at making some TCP changes to allow systems to get the most out of the Internet - and they plan to do their work on Linux. Here is an LWN feature article about Web 100, what it is trying to achieve, and how it might help to keep Linux in the forefront of networking development.

What kind of modem does the IBM Thinkpad 600E really have? We have gotten a wide variety of opinions, but the definitive word appears to be that it has a modem based on the IBM Mwave DSP. It does not run the Lucent DSP, though some of the other Thinkpad models do. Hopefully this is our last word on the subject...

Red Hat's web site will cease carrying LWN in October. We have enjoyed working with Red Hat, and wish them the best of luck with their web site efforts. Meanwhile, we encourage all of you who may have been reading our content via redhat.com to come to the source at lwn.net.

Inside this week's Linux Weekly News:

  • Security: a look at the PC Week cracker challenge.
  • Kernel: do device drivers belong in the kernel source tree?
  • Distributions: Caldera's mailing lists return, Conectiva Linux road show
  • Development: Piranha bites heartbeat, introducing Yams.
  • Commerce: Corel starts making connections
  • Back page: Linux links of the week, letters to the editor.

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September 30, 1999


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