Symposium Extends Embedded Linux

By Craig Newell  |  Posted 2003-07-23 Print this article Print

Linux can reap new opportunities in the embedded-OS space with some minor tweaks, according to a presentation today at the 2003 Linux Symposium.

OTTAWA—Linux can reap new opportunities in the embedded-OS space with some minor tweaks, according to a presentation today at the 2003 Linux Symposium. Hundreds of Linux developers and fans gathered at Ottawas Congress Centre to trade ideas over the future of the emerging embedded operating system, which has been used to power everything from home stereo equipment to PDAs. Among Wednesdays highlights was a presentation by Texas Instruments Inc.s Senior Linux Technologist Tim Riker, who detailed the unique challenges of optimizing Linux for embedded devices. Riker, who said he has been "hacking on Linux for a number of years," said the open-source OS poses some problems for embedded developers.
One of the largest obstacles to using embedded Linux in mobile devices is kernel size, which is often limited by storage on portable devices, and battery life. Riker offered many strategies to overcome these problems, including stripping out unnecessary features of the operating systems kernel, which can reduce the amount of storage necessary for the OS.
Legalities surrounding the General Public License, or GPL, can also pose hurdles for device manufacturers who do not want to release source code created for their devices. If developers modify the source code of GPL software for use in their devices, they are required to release the code of the GPL software they customized. The storage constraints of mobile devices pose an even larger problem for developers who want to allow users to surf the Internet. "Everything seems to want a Web browser these days," Riker said. However, developers here face a quandary: Many Linux Web browsers with a small footprint are incapable of rendering pages properly, but the open-source Mozilla browser is too resource-intensive for many applications. Riker questioned the audience, "Can you sacrifice the amount of storage and horsepower that it takes to run Mozilla?" But even some in the Linux camp questioned the ultimate viability of Linux as the platform of choice for mobile devices. "Many people are sticking with Windows CE because the current Linux alternatives are not as reliable," one audience member noted. Riker riposted, noting that Windows CE is still prohibitively expensive for many applications. Thursdays agenda includes sessions on cluster file systems and Googles use of Linux. Linux Symposium presentations began Wednesday and continue through Saturday, culminating with a keynote from Paul Russell, organizer of the first Australian Linux conference.

Craig Newell joined Ziff Davis Internet as Associate Editor in June 2003.

Prior to that, he served as a freelance editor for Ziff Davis.

Newell began his reporting at BetaNews, a site dedicated to news surrounding pre-release software.

In 2001, he joined Ziff Davis' eWEEK as a freelance reporter covering America Online Inc. where he broke several important stories including unreleased details on America Online's software client. He has also served as an online community producer for and worked on MSNBC's daytime news programming.


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