COM Express module sports Atom  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

COM Express module sports Atom

Aaeon announced a COM Express module powered by Intel's N270 Atom processor. The new "COM-945GSE" targets "leading-edge applications" including gaming, entertainment, and industrial automation, with a 1.6GHz CPU, eight USB ports, two SATA ports, CRT, LCD, or TV video outputs, and gigabit Ethernet, the company says.

(Click here for a larger view of Aaeon's COM-945GSE)

Aaeon's new COM (computer on module) uses the well-known COM Express format. Like that of other Type 2 COM Express modules, its underside has two surface-mount connectors, with 220 pins apiece, conveying all its signals to a development board (see below) or custom carrier board.

Visible on the front, and occupying nearly a third of the highly integrated board's surface area, are Intel's N270 Atom processor, 945GSE northbridge, and ICH7M southbridge. Aaeon doesn't cite the COM-945GSE's power consumption, but this trio of Intel chips has a total TDP of approximately 9 Watts, according to the chipmaker. Therefore, the COM-945GSE may likely be operated fanlessly, with adequate cooling installed.

The COM-945GSE has an Intel 82547L gigabit Ethernet chip. Additional I/O includes eight USB ports, two SATA II ports, a PATA interface that supports dual drives, HD audio, and four GPIO lines that may be used as inputs or outputs, according to Aaeon.

Aaeon touts the COM-945GSE's ability to support mirrored or independent dual displays, which may be either a CRT and an LCD, a CRT and a TV, or a TV and an LCD. Supported resolutions, via up to 224MB of shared video memory, are said to range up to 2048 x 1538 pixels for LCDs, and 1600 x 1200 pixels for CRTs.

The module's single SO-DIMM slot, said to accept up to 2GB of DDR2 RAM, is visible in the photo at the top of this story. Other expansion potential is provided by up to five PCI Express interfaces, four PCI interfaces, LPC, SMBus, and I2C, Aaeon says.

COM Express module sports Atom

Aaeon's ECB-916M
As usual for a COM, bringing all this goodness to the outside world requires a carrier board for the module. Aaeon offers to design a custom carrier board "for specific project requirements," but also nominates its standard ECB-916M development board, shown above. This off-the-shelf product uses the 9.6 x 9.6 micro-ATX form factor, and provides real-world interfaces that include the following, the company says:VGA, LVDS, and TV-out connectors
2 x RJ45 connectors for gigabit Ethernet
Audio I/O
1 x CompactFlash Type II slot
1 x PCI Express x16 slot
1 x PCI Express x1 slot
1 x PCI slot
1 x Express Card slot
1 x Mini PCI slot
4 x SATA ports
1 x PATA
1 x floppy disk drive connector
4 x USB ports
4 x COM ports
1 x LPC connector
1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector
1 x AT/ATX power inputFeatures and specifications listed by Aaeon for the COM-945GSE on its own include:Processor -- 1.6GHz Atom N270
Memory -- Up to 2GB of DDR2 RAM via single SO-DIMM slot
Display -- Supports dual displays: CRT/LCD, CRT/TV, or TV/LDC
Storage -- None on board
Networking -- 1 x gigabit Ethernet interface
Other I/O:LVDS and SDVO video
1 x PATA
8 x USB 2.0
Audio I/O (output up to 7:1)
4 x GPIO (assignable to input or output)
Expansion:3 x PCI Express x1 (standard), 5 x PCI Express x1 (optional)
4 x 32-bit PCI
I2CPower requirements -- Accepts 8.5VDC to 19VDC input range
Operating temperature -- 0 to 60 deg. C
Dimensions -- 3.75 x 3.75 inches (95 x 95mm)Further information

According to Aaeon, the COM-945GSE supports Linux, Windows XP, and Windows XP Embedded. Pricing and availability were not provided, but more information may be found on the company's website, here.

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Smartphones up in down mobile market  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Smartphone shipments will rise 8.9 percent worldwide, and 3.1 percent in the U.S. next year, forecasts IDC. Meanwhile, "traditional" mobile phone sales are forecast to slump 3.5 percent globally and 11.5 percent Stateside, off-setting smartphone growth for an overall shipments drop of 1.9 percent, the industry's first decline since 2001.

Smartphones up in down mobile market

Smartphones up in down mobile market

Three year mobile phone shipments delta, Worldwide (top, or left) and USA

Over the past several years, the mobile phone market has enjoyed double-digit annual growth, thanks especially to "emerging markets," the research firm says in its latest "Mobile Phone Tracker" report. But, the global economic crisis will put a stop to this in 2009, IDC warns. In fact, growth figures for the current year will fall short of double digits, reaching 7.1 percent for 2008, the firm expects.

Total mobile phone sales volumes in 2009 are expected by IDC to be 1.9 percent lower than 2008 levels, making the first downturn in annual shipment volumes since 2001 (when they declined 2.3 percent). In the U.S. market, the decline will be even worse. More or less steady during 2008, U.S. cell phone shipments will decline by 8.7 percent next year, says IDC.

RegionDevice Type200820092010USAConverged mobile device (smartphone) mobile phone-9.8-11.6-8.8Overall market-0.3-8.7-0.7WorldwideConverged mobile device (smartphone)26.98.924.0Traditional mobile phone4.6-3.55.0Overall market7.1-1.97.7
U.S. and worldwide mobile phone shipment growth by device type, 2008–2010
Source: IDC
However, smartphones that run complex operating systems such as Linux will be a relative bright spot. While smartphone sales have clearly been affected by the economy, as the above table shows, they will continue to increase moderately. IDC predicts 2009 smartphone shipments will increase by 8.9 percent globally, and more than three percent in the U.S.

And, in 2010, "when economic recovery plans will have taken effect," smartphone shipments will be in the vanguard. They'll increase by 28.2 percent in the U.S. and 24 percent globally, IDC predicts.

The firm comments that the current economic crunch is causing increasing numbers of consumers to hold onto their current phones, rather than upgrading them. Explaining the ascendancy of smartphones, however, IDC adds that falling prices are making converged devices an increasingly popular choice for those who do upgrade.

Ramon Llamas, a senior analyst in IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends unit, said, "Converged mobile devices remain a much sought-after option for many consumers. Users have come to realize what these devices can do beyond voice telephony, especially when it comes to running applications. In response, handset vendors have been building their product and applications portfolios to catch this wave of opportunity."

Operating systems

IDC's new research did not forecast what proportion of the increasing smartphone market Linux might garner next year. The firm defines converged mobile devices as those with a "high-level operating system that enables the device to run third-party applications in addition to voice telephony," adding that Android, BlackBerry, Linux, Mac OS X, Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile all qualify.

In its own recent report, Gartner agreed that the recession is hindering overall phone sales, but said that year-on-year smartphones were up 11.5 percent in 3Q 2008. Big market share winners were said to be Blackberry (up 81.7 percent) and Mac OS X (up 327.5 percent).

Windows Mobile and Linux, meanwhile, were said to be dropping slightly, the former down from 12.8 to 11.1 percent year over year, and the latter down from 8.8 to 7.2. According to Gartner, Linux dropped only slightly compared to the previous quarter, from 7.3 percent to 7.2 percent.


More information on IDC's Mobile Phone Tracker reports, issued quarterly, should be available here.

OpenSUSE changes licenses  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

With its recent 11.1 release, OpenSUSE has changed the end-user license agreement (EULA) users must accept in order to install the distribution. The new, more Fedora-like license could increase the distribution's appeal among those wishing to redistribute the software, including engineers assembling filesystems for embedded Linux devices.

Available only in English for now (with translations in progress), and modeled on Fedora's highly successful license, the new EULA aims to raise fewer eyebrows than the old license, Community Manager Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier suggests in a detailed interview on our sister site,

The 11.1 release is also the first OpenSUSE release to use a new open build system. For device developers, the system could simplify the integration of key upstream code between official OpenSUSE releases, while also potentially offering an easier channel for SUSE-specific patch contributions.

One more potential appeal for developers -- OpenSUSE features tight integration with the similarly Novell-sponsored Mono tools for open .NET development. For more about the recent Mono 2 release, see DesktopLinux's interview with Miguel de Icaza.

The Brockmeier interview address topics that include:License changes and open source EULA/trademark license unification
Challenges of license translation
Novell's Go.OO branch of OpenOffice
Licensing of SUSE-specific configuration tools such as YAST
How Novell's deal with Microsoft affects open source
The state of KDE in OpenSUSE 11.1, and future releases
The results of OpenSUSE's community outreach effortsThroughout the interview, screenshots illustrate the software being discussed. The full interview can be found here.

OpenSUSE is the community-supported foundation for Novell's commercial SUSE distributions. SUSE/OpenSUSE was used in products and projects by about 2.6 percent of LinuxDevices readers over the last two years, according to our most recent annual survey results. It has long been supported by rPath tools for creating custom appliance distributions, was used recent in the MSI Wind, and was recently adopted by Wyse for thin clients.

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Samsung to ship Android phone in Q2?  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Samsung to ship Android phone in Q2?

Samsung Electronics will ship its first Android phone in the second quarter of of 2009, says a Korea IT News story. The phone will be released in North America by Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA, and Samsung's Android team reportedly now has 80 developers.

Citing "industry insiders," the Korea IT News story says that the phone will run the Linux-based, Google-sponsored Android spec, and will be a "full" touchscreen phone, offering Google Map, G-Talk, G-mail, and Google Search.

According to the story, Korea-based Samsung has added 30 experts on Linux and Java to its Android team. Part of the company's information and communications division, the team now numbers 80 developers. The story also quotes a Samsung Electronics executive as saying, "We are accelerating the development process for Google phone in order to meet the specific need of local carriers," suggesting perhaps that the phone will also be available in Korea.

Android's momentum appears to be strong heading into the holiday season, although the the holiday sales numbers of the first Android phone, the HTC G1 (pictured at top) will tell the tale. Interestingly, the G1 is also offered by T-Mobile, so if the Korea IT News story is correct in stating that the carrier will also bring Samsung's phone to market, the Samsung model may be significantly different than the G1.

Samsung was an original member of the Open Handset Alliance group that sponsors the Android spec, along with Google. The OHA membership recently grew by 14 members. The new members include wireless carriers Vodafone and SoftBank Mobile, as well as handset makers Asus, Huawei, Sony Ericsson, and Toshiba. In October, meanwhile, long-time Motorola announced it would focus its Linux handset development on Android.


The Korea IT News story on Samsung's Android phone should be available here.

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"...and I'm Linux" contest nears  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

...and Im Linux contest nears

The Linux Foundation will launch a contest in late January aimed at getting users to create 60-second videos showcasing what Linux means to them. In the finest tradition of open source, the contest riffs off of existing videos developed by commercial software firms.

Specifically, the contest asks contestants to help create Linux's riposte to "I'm a Mac" ads from Apple, and to subsequent "I'm a PC" ads from Microsoft. "Me too" marketing, perhaps -- but with a "grass roots" bent: Videos need not parody the existing commercials, but instead should showcase "just what Linux means" to its user base, the Linux Foundation says.

...and Im Linux contest nears

"I'm Linux. I mean Linus. I keep typing that wrong."

Our guess is that the contest responds to the incident a couple of weeks ago, in which a Texas schoolteacher chastised and punished a student for demonstrating and distributing Linux to his school chums. She reportedly said things like, "No operating system is free, and to say otherwise is lying" (this is paraphrased).

The incident provided a sort of "ah-hah" revelation for many in the community: Linux really has no marketing voice independent from the commercial distributors whose messaging, after all, may not really emphasize its free nature.

The winner(s) will be announced at the LF's Collaboration Summit in SF this April, and will then fly to Tokyo for the LF's Japan Linux Symposium, in Oct. 2009. Further details can be expected in late Jan., though obviously creative minds can immediately begin pondering the possibilities. More about the contest, including rules and video upload links, can be found here.

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Atom-on-ETX runs Linux  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Atom-on-ETX  runs Linux

Adlink announced a Linux-friendly ETX computer-on-module (COM) using Intel's Atom N270. Targeting "truly fanless or deeply embedded systems," the "ETX-AT" offers up to 2GB of memory, 10/100 Ethernet, dual IDE/PATA channels, two SATA ports, four USB ports, plus serial, parallel, PS/2, and audio interfaces, says Adlink.

(Click here for a larger view of Adlink's ETX-AT)

Adlink's COM product line includes both ETX and COM Express modules. The company positions the former as being for those who wish to create PCI/ISA oriented designs, and the latter for those who want to create PCI/PCI Express designs.

Atom-on-ETX  runs Linux

Adlink's Express-AT is the ETX-AT's COM Express equivalent
(Click image for further information)At the end of October, the COM Express side of the operation gained the Atom N270, via the Express-AT (right), a 4.9 x 3.7 inch module that complies with the COM Express Type 2 format. Now, thanks to this month's release of the ETX-AT, ETX fans have an equivalent product to call their own.

Like the Express-AT, the ETX-AT is touted as offering a seven-year production-life guarantee. The 4.5 x 3.7 COM complies with the ETX 3.0 standard first introduced by Kontron in 2006, which means that while it has sprouted two SATA ports, its main connector remains compatible with any ETX carrier board.

Atom-on-ETX  runs Linux

A block diagram of Adlink's ETX-AT
(Click to enlarge)
As the above block diagram indicates, the ETX-AT sports the 1.6GHz N270 CPU so often found in netbooks (and also found in Kontron's own, competing ETX-DC COM). Naturally, then, the module also comes with the N270's fellow travelers, the 82945GSE northbridge and ICH7 southbridge.

Adlink cites Intel's own claim of a 2.5 Watt TDP for the N270, but doesn't confess that the 945GSE and ICH7M conspire to consume an additional 6.5 Watts. In any case, fanless operation of the ETX-AT is confirmed by the company, which lists optional heat spreaders and passive heatsinks for the module.

The ETX-AT comes with a single SO-DIMM slot, which supports up to 2GB of "mainstream" DDR2 memory. Unlike some COMs, this one doesn't have a CompactFlash slot, but it may be ordered with up to 4GB of soldered-on memory, says Adlink.

The two SATA ports mentioned earlier, visible on the top left of the ETX-AT, are the only "real-world" connectors to be found on the device. As expected for this type of module, the ETX-AT's other interfaces all reach the outside world via the ETX connector itself, and thence to an available dev board or customer-designed baseboard or carrier board.

According to Adlink, the ETX-AT's interfaces include support for dual independent displays, which can be LVDS-connected flat panels, analog CRTs, or TVs. The device also has four USB ports, two IDE PATA channels, two serial ports, a parallel port, a PS/2 keyboard/mouse interface, and audio I/O.

Finally, the ETX-AT has a TPM (trusted platform module), using the Infineon SLB9635TT chip. The COM supports 32-bit, 33MHz PCI and 16-bit ISA expansion buses, thanks to a ITE8888G bridge chip, Adlink adds.

Features and specifications cited by Adlink for the ETX-AT include:Processor -- Intel Atom N270 running at 1.6GHz, 512MB second-level cache
Memory -- Up to 2GB of DDR2 DRAM
Display -- LVDS flat panel, CRT, or television output with shared video memory; resolutions up to 2048 x 1536 on CRT and up to 1024 x 768 on televisions
Networking -- 10/100 Ethernet
Other I/O:2 x SATA
2 x serial
4 x USB 2.0
1 x parallel, shared between floppy/LPT
Line input/output and microphone input
1 x PS/2 for keyboard and mouse
1 x IrDAExpansion -- Interface support for ISA and 32-bit 33MHz PCIPower -- 5VDC, AT or ATX modes
Dimensions -- 4.5 x 3.7 inches (114 x 95mm)
Operating temperature -- 0 to 60 deg. CHenk van Bremen, a product director for Adlink's embedded division, said, "We expect many system integrators to use the ETX-AT to upgrade older generation modules used in currently running projects because of its better value, lower price and seven year warranted production lifetime."

Further information

Adlink did not provide pricing or availability information for the ETX-AT. Operating system support, on the other hand, is said to include Linux 2.6.x, Windows XP and XP Embedded, Windows Vista, Windows CE 5.0 and 6.0, and VxWorks.

More information about the ETX-AT may be found on the Adlink website, here, where registration is needed to view BSP details.

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Virtualization vendor names new chairman  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

VirtualLogix, which sells Linux-compatible "VLX" virtualization software designed for embedded devices, announced the selection of a new executive chairman after the departure of CEO Peter Richards. Former Oracle and IBM executive Mike Seashols will act as interim CEO, and chair the advisory board of strategic investors, says the company.

Seashols spent 11 years at IBM, and was Oracle's first VP of marketing and sales. Among other positions, he was CEO and founder of object-oriented database firm Versant, and also held the role of CEO at content management software company Documentum, says VirtualLogix. Seashols will also chair the advisory board of strategic investors, which includes representatives from Intel, Cisco, Motorola, and Texas Instruments (TI), says the company.

The departure of Richards (pictured below, right) in November and the arrival of Seashols was confirmed last week in an email to LinuxDevices from VirtualLogix co-founder and EVP, Corporate Development, Michel Gien. According to Gien, a CEO replacement has already accepted the position and will be announced in mid-January.

Virtualization vendor names new chairman

Outgoing CEO
Peter Richards
Gien referred to the reorg as part of a "worldwide adjustment" that was precautionary, "until we know the impact of the global economic conditions."

Other new board appointees include Juha Christensen, a well-known former Symbian and Microsoft executive who served on the board of Trolltech (now Nokia's Qt Software). Seashols and Christensen will join current board members Gien, Giuseppe Zocco (General Partner, Index Ventures), Alexander Bruhl (Senior Partner, Atlas Venture), and Tom Bradley (Partner, DFJ Esprit).

Seashols has "a proven track record" of identifying "tipping points" in the technology industry such as may be occurring now in virtualization, says VirtuaLogix. Virtualization is now moving from success at the enterprise server level to play a major role in embedded and mobile devices, says the company. Its VLX software comes in different versions for networking equipment, set-top boxes (STBs), and mobile devices, including mobile Internet devices (MIDs).

Stated Seashols, "As devices of all types become more feature-rich and connected, the need for real-time virtualization software solutions will explode as device OEMs and service providers seek to accelerate the introduction of new functionality with lower cost multicore chip sets, lower power utilization, higher security walls and more effective maintainability."

Stated Gien, "We are thrilled to have [Seashols] on board as we expand our strategic position in the rapidly-evolving opportunity to virtualize computing devices such as IP phones, auto infotainment, industrial / medical instrumentation, network infrastructure, multi-faceted printers and mobile devices."

For more information, please see last week's coverage of the VirtualLogix moves.

Browser for Linux devices hits second alpha  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Browser for Linux devices hits second alpha

Mozilla Labs has released the first version of its "Fennec" mobile device browser that can be tested on PC desktops. Available for Linux, Windows, Macintosh, Maemo, and Windows Mobile, the "alpha 2" browser boasts extension hooks, faster panning and zooming, and improved look and feel, the project says.

(Click here for a larger view of Fennec, Alpha 2)

Fennec, which will run via x86 and ARM processors on both Linux-based and Windows Mobile devices, has been under development since last year. It aims to bring a "true web experience" to mobile phones and other non-PC devices, and includes a "bridge" aimed at helping users migrate cookies, bookmarks, history, form-fill data, and other information from their desktop browsers to their mobiles, according to Mozilla Labs.

The project has tinkered openly with Fennec throughout 2008, but has previously released test builds of the web browser only for Nokia's N810 MID (mobile internet device), which runs Linux. As of the new Alpha 2 release, however, test versions are available for Linux, Macintosh, and Windows desktop computers, as well as for the N810 and for Windows Mobile.

Browser for Linux devices hits second alpha

Mozilla's Fennec Alpha 2
(Click to enlarge)
The new builds enable authors of both content and extensions to begin experimenting with the software on their desktops, says the project. Touted features in Fennec Alpha 2 include faster panning and zooming, look and feel adjustments, and better responsiveness while pages are loading. Even more significant, the browser is said to include new hooks for authors of third-party extensions, plus an extension manager (below right) similar to the one on desktop editions of Firefox. Claimed to have more than 200 million users, Firefox has become a popular ecosystem for extensions, which can provide tabbed sidebars, content filtering, or automatic synchronization of bookmarks across multiple devices, to cite but a few examples.

Browser for Linux devices hits second alpha

Browser for Linux devices hits second alpha

Sliding a finger or stylus to the right in Fennec allows accessing the browser's controls (left) and extensions manager (right)
(Click either to enlarge)
Fennec has a simplified user interface, designed to make good use of small screens. For example, sliding a finger or stylus to the left on a device's screen -- imitated on the current desktop builds via mouse or trackpad gestures -- allows bookmarking a web page, moving to previously viewed web sites, or accessing other browser controls. Sliding to the right provides a tab bar with thumbnails of all currently open tabs, as pictured below.

Browser for Linux devices hits second alpha

Fennec's tab navigator
(Click to enlarge)

To obtain Fennec Alpha 2 builds for Linux, Windows, or Macintosh OS X desktop computers, or Nokia's N810, see the Mozilla website, here. Further information about the build is available in a blog entry from developer Mark Finkle, here.

To get instructions on how to create a Windows Mobile version, see the Mozilla site, here.

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Targeting virtual hardware  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Targeting virtual hardware

This article describes setting up an embedded Linux cross-development environment targeting a virtual machine running on the development host. It covers installing Qemu and using it to debug applications and kernels, both with supplied test-images and with custom kernel/filesystem images created with Buildroot.

The article describes how to get started writing code for an "embedded" architecture such as MIPS or ARM, even though you may not yet have any actual hardware based on that architecture. Since embedded projects typically involve concurrent hardware and software development, targeting emulated hardware is one of the most fundamental skills required by developers working in the device development market.

The article was written by Gilad Ben-Yossef, co-founder of Israel-based embedded Linux training and consulting firm Codefidence. Ben-Yossef is also co-author of Building Embedded Linux Systems, originally written by Karim Yaghmour.

Ben-Yossef delves into specific topics that include:Installing Qemu
Installing a kernel and root filesystem
Booting Linux on the emulator
Setting up networking with the development host
Transferring files to/from the target
Using sample code distributed with Qemu:Setting up gdb on the host to debug applications running on the target
Using gdb to debut Linux kernels running on the targetBuilding your own kernels and filesystem images (using Buildroot)Click below to read the full article.

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Half-U net appliance runs Linux  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Half-U net appliance runs Linux

Lanner Electronics has announced a space-saving, "half-rack" network appliance that runs Linux on a Core2Duo or Celeron M chip. Targeting network security and acceleration applications, the FW-7872 has five Ethernet ports, a serial port, two internal SATA ports, and two external SATA connectors, the company says.

(Click here for a larger view of Lanner's FW-7872)

Lanner touts the FW-7872 as "an ideal platform for environment-conscious applications." While its power consumption and heat generation aren't quantified, they're claimed to be lower than many competing devices. In addition, the device has a small "half-rack" footprint that allows it to operate stand-alone, as pictured above, or in a standard 19-inch teleccommunications rack. As we show below, the device is small enough that two of them can be mounted side by side.

Half-U net appliance runs Linux

Half-U net appliance runs Linux

A standard 19-inch rack can hold one (above) or two (below) instances of the FW-7872
One use for the extra rack space saved by the FW-7872 could be extra hard disk storage, Lanner suggests. The FW-7872 includes two internal 2.5-inch drive bays and SATA connectors, plus two external SATA connectors. The device also provides an internal Type II CompactFlash slot, for embedded operating system installation.

The FW-7872's front panel includes four gigabit Ethernet ports, plus, optionally, a fifth 10/100 port that is intended for IP KVM connection, according to Lanner. Also up front are a power switch, two USB ports, and a serial console port.

Half-U net appliance runs Linux

Around the back, the small appliance has two further USB ports, two eSATA ports, a PS/2 port that supports both a keyboard and mouse via a supplied Y-adapter. Of interest internally are both a Mini-PCI slot and the optional IAC-AST100 remote management card pictured at right. Lanner says the IAC-AST100, which fits onto the FW-7872's main board via a dedicated OPMA (open platform management architecture) connector, provides an IPMI (intelligent platform management interface), allowing the appliance to be monitored and controlled remotely via Ethernet.

The FW-7872 is said to accept several different Intel uFCBGA (micro flip chip ball grid array) processors, such as the 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo T7400, 2.0GHz Core Duo T2500, or 1.86GHz Celeron M 440. Via the 945GME northbridge and ICH7-M southbridge, the device can employ 667MHz, 533MHz, or 400MHz memory, in the form of two DIMMs up to 2GB apiece, Lanner says.

Finally, the FW-7872 has dual DC power input connectors, leading to dual, redundant power supplies. The device's feature set is rounded out by a watchdog timer, plus an internal, battery-backed real-time clock, according to the company.

Features and specifications listed by Lanner for the FW-7872 include:Processor -- 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo T7400, 2.0GHz Core Duo T2500, or 1.86GHz Celeron M 440
Memory -- Up to 4GB of RAM via two SO-DIMM slots
Display -- VGA output, or serial console
Storage -- Up to two 2.5-inch hard disk drives internally, two external, plus CompactFlash Type II slot
Networking -- 4 gigabit Ethernet ports, plus optional fifth 10/100 port for IP KVM option
Other I/O:4 x USB (two front, two rear)
1 x serial (for console)
4 x SATA (two internal, two external)Expansion:Mini-PCI slot
OPMA connector for optional IAC-AST100 IPMI card
CompactFlash Type II slotOperating temperature -- 0 to 40 deg. C
Power requirements -- n/s, but uses dual DC power supplies with locking connectors
Dimensions -- 13.2 x 8.5 x 1.7 inches (335 x 215 x 44mm)
Weight -- 13.2 pounds (6kg)Lanner did not release pricing or general availability information for the FW-7872 but said the device is sampling now. More information may be available on the company's website, here.

According to Lanner, the FW-7872 is compatible with Linux, Windows XP, and Windows XP Embedded.

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ARM9 development kit runs Linux  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

ARM9 development kit runs Linux

Hiteg announced a Linux-ready, hardware/software development kit for Samsung's ARM9-based S3C2440 microprocessor. The 100mm-square Mini2440 board features the workhorse S3C2440 processor clocked to 533MHz, and targets embedded development training applications, industrial control equipment, and consumer electronics devices like PDA devices and GPS navigators.

(Click for larger view of the Mini2440)

Chinese embedded ARM vendor Hiteg offers a variety of development boards and processor modules based on the Samsung S3C2440 and lower-power S3C2410 processors. The boards are typically available with software development kits (SDKs) for Linux 2.6 and Windows CE 5.0 (more details on the SDKs below).

The Mini2440 appears to be Hiteg's smallest S3C2440 development kit to date. Measuring 3.9 by 3.9 inches (100 x 100mm), the AT2440 is a four-layer board that clocks the Samsung S3C2440's ARM920T RISC core at 400MHz (dominant frequency) and 533MHz (peak frequency). Launched in 2003, the widely used S3C2440 system-on-chip (SoC) primarily targets handheld devices such as smartphones and PDAs. The SoC integrates 16KB each of instruction and data cache, 4KB RAM, a NAND flash boot loader, power management functions, an interrupt controller, and an external memory controller (see block diagram)

ARM9 development kit runs Linux

Mini2440 with LCD
(Click to enlarge)

The Mini2440 comes standard with 64MB each of SDRAM and NAND flash, expandable via an SD card slot, along with 2MB of NOR flash. The board has camera and LCD interfaces, and can be ordered with a built-in 3.5-inch QVGA (320x240) module or external 7-inch display.

The Mini2440's complement of PC-style I/O includes Ethernet, USB host and slave ports, and three serial connections. Available options include a WiFi module, and CMOS and USB camera options. The Mini2440 board offers a "stable CPU power source chip and reset system," says Hiteg.

Specifications listed for the Mini2440 include:Processor -- Samsung S3C2440 (ARM920T core) clocked at up to 533MHz
Memory -- 64MB SDRAM (up to 100MHz)
Flash -- 64MB NAND flash; 2MB NOR flash
Flash expansion -- 1 x SD card interface
Display -- LCD controller with four-wire resistive touchscreen interface; optional 3.5- or 7-inch LCD displays
Networking -- 1 x 10/100 Ethernet RJ-45 interface (DM9000 chip)
WiFi -- optional WiFi module
USB -- 1 x USB Host; 1 x USB Slave (B-type interface)
Serial -- 3 x serial ports
Audio -- 1 x stereo audio output interface; 1 x mic interface
Camera -- 1 x 20-pin (2.0mm space) camera interface; optional CMOS or USB cameras
Other I/O:1 x 10-pin (2.0mm space) JTAG interface
4 x user LEDs
6 x user buttons
1 x PWM control buzzer
1 x adjustable resistance, for AD conversion test
1 x I2C bus AT24C08 chip, for I2C bus test
1 x 34-pin 2.0mm GPIO interface
1 x 40-pin 2.0mm system bus interfacePower -- RTC battery; power supply interface
Clock -- internal real-time clock and 12Mhz passive crystal system clock source
Dimensions -- 3.9 x 3.9 inches (100 x 100mm)
Operating system -- Linux 2.6.13; WindowsCE.NET 5.0Available SDKs

The Mini2440 software development kit (SDK) includes the following components, says Hiteg:ADS1.2 development environment
H-JTAG burning and debugging tool
SJF2440 flash burning tool for Windows
Jflash-2440 flash burning tool for Linux (source code provided)
Serial tools CRT, dnw
Bmp2t (picture transformer)
USB driver for Windows XP/2000
Vivi bootloader for Linux (source code provided)
Test programs (source code provided)
WinCE BSP and example project fileThe Linux version of the SDK also offers additional Linux development tools and Linux 2.6.13 kernel source code, as well as Qtopia and "embedded browser" source code, says Hiteg. Components include:arm-linux-gcc-3.3.2 used for compiling Qtopia
arm-linux-gcc-3.4.1 used for compiling kernel
arm-linux-gcc-2.95.3 used for compiling Vivi
Mkyaffsimage YAFFS filesystem image maker
Drivers -- DM9000, TFT LCD, audio card, touchscreen, SD card, RTC, expansion serial port, USB camera, USB mouse, keyboard, U-diskAvailability

The Mini2440 development board is available now for 150 Euros (about $211 US), while the 3.5-inch LCD version costs 200 Euros ($281). The 7-inch LCD version costs 280 Euros ($394), or 330 Euros ($464) when also equipped with a WiFi module and CMOS camera. More information may be found here.

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New Linux distro targets device resellers  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

New Linux distro targets device resellers

An open source project has released a new, more "hackable" Debian-based Linux distribution for the Openmoko NeoFreerunner phone. The Hackable:1 group hopes to build a well-maintained, developer-friendly codebase for use by VARs (value-added resellers) building products on top of Openmoko's open hardware designs.

(Click for larger view of Hackable:1 running TangoGPS)

Hackable:1 joins a growing list of Linux distributions tailored for Openmoko's open source Neo FreeRunner smartphone. (See below, for some others, including a Koolu version of Android). Sponsored by French development house and FreeRunner reseller Bearstech, the project has achieved a "beta" release of its Hackable:1 distro. The stack buids on the work of the DebianOnFreerunner project, while integrating GNOME Mobile components well.

Hackable:1 packages Openmoko's OM2007.2 applications as .deb packages for a GNOME Mobile environment. The distro extends and bugfixes applications including the Dialer, SMS, Contacts, Neod, Phone-kit, GSMD, Matchbox, and panel applets, says the group. The distribution runs from 2GB SD cards, in order to avoid the need to "fiddle with the restrictions of the limited space of the built-in flash," says the Hackable:1 team. The group adds that it will "soon provide a flash image for those of you who need the space on the SD card for other things," and a full LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP/perl/python) stack is also said to be available.

New Linux distro targets device resellers

New Linux distro targets device resellers

Hackable:1's main GSM interface and its implementation of XChat IM
(Click on either to enlarge)

Highlights of the beta release of Hackable:1 are said to include:Improved sound quality, with fixes for GSMD for echo cancellation
GSMD fixed to suppress reregistering of some phones
Extends AUX and Power menus to easily switch between USB modes, or connect Bluetooth keyboard
Onscreen keyboard with all hacker characters on a short press via AUX button
GPS works out of the box
Switch on and off accelerometer-based autorotate
Fixed Matchbox/WindowManager crash/bug
Error dialog now offered for SMS send failures
Many GPRS providers pre-configured for easy use
Matchbox-stroke included
Preconfigured for GSM multiplexing
X2x works out of the box for mouse and keyboard connections
Battery applet improvedThe many flavors of FreeRunner

Hackable:1 joins a growing list of phone stacks available for Openmoko's fully open source Neo FreeRunner. In addition to the default Openmoko 2008.9, which uses the GNOME/GTK+ stack, there's a newer April Software Update (ASU) stack based on Qt Software's Qt for Embedded (formerly Qtopia), which may be more "production-ready," at the cost of requiring a commercial license when redistributed commercially. There's also the (FSO) framework initiative, which is still fairly early in the development process. In addition, Canadian development firm Koolu is porting the Google Android stack to the FreeRunner, and plans to sell a pre-integrated Android version of the phone.

New Linux distro targets device resellers

FDOM interface
(Click for details)
More recently, Spanish resellers Tuxbrain released the application-rich Fat and Dirty OpenMoko (FDOM). Based on Openmoko 2008.9 Linux, FDOM (pictured) offers a KDE environment, and is billed as "a combination of apps and fixes to demo the capabilities of the Freerunner."

Meanwhile, Bearstech is also sponsoring another distribution for the FreeRunner and other hackable mobile devices called RunningBear. Currently in pre-alpha, Running Bear is a bare-bones distribution designed "from the ground up," for hackable mobile devices. Bearstech is aligned with FaberNovel, a Parisian design firm that is distributing the Neo FreeRunner in the U.S. via its San Francisco office.

Openmoko spun out from Taiwanese PC and phone manufacturing giant FIC (First International Computer). It's business model involves selling open hardware reference designs that can be easily adapted by open source developers. It recently launched a Lab in Taiwan where software is developed for its devices.


A beta version of Hackable:1 is available now for free tarball download, here. It requires a 2GB SD card for install. The group's Openmoko release announcement is here. The group says it is actively seeking community participation with the project.

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Development bounties offered for open source STB  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Development bounties offered for open source STB

Neuros has announced its first "bounties" for developing Ubuntu-based Linux software on its Neuros LINK open-source set-top box (STB) (pictured). The cash bounties cover Netflix, Move Networks, and iTunes integration, as well as projects on networking, video resolution, error reporting, and GUI upgrades, says Neuros.

Neuros began shipping its $300 Neuros LINK STB in November. The hackable IP box works with a free Neuros.TV service to let users play popular video content on-demand without subscribing to TV services, Neuros says. The LINK is a small, mini-ITX system that runs an AMD Athlon 1660 processor clocked at 2.8 GHz, as well as AMD's +780g chipset. The system has 1GB of RAM, and boots from 4GB of flash, which is its only standard-issue storage.

Development bounties offered for open source STB

The Neuros Link service
(Click to enlarge)

The LINK runs a user-modifiable Linux distribution based on Ubuntu 8.10 that includes popular open source video players. To encourage participation from developers, Neuros has offered bounties for other projects, including its older OSD ("open source device") STB hardware design, for example, offering up to $3,500 for hacks enabling the OSD to be used with TiVo's web-based interface.

The new round of bounties "are largely Ubuntu tweaking on the Neuros hardware, which is pretty standard x86 components," wrote Joe Born in an email. "Ownership of the device isn't necessary for completing the bounties, although it's a help for many of them."

The Ubuntu/LINK bounties vary in the terms, with several requiring documentation to be written. The bounties are said to include:Netflix ($2,500 to $3,000) -- Connecting the LINK directly to Netflix pays $2,500, and getting it "working using PC software as an intermediary" is worth an extra $500. Must beat Netflix and Boxee (see below) from enabling similar functionality.

Move Networks ($2,000 to $2,500) -- Writing a Move Networks plugin pays $2,000, and getting it to work within the Linux version of Firefox pays another $500. Must complete before Move Networks writes similar plugin.

iTunes ($1,000) -- Tweak existing Ubuntu code to make the LINK play iTunes Store audio content.

Networking wizard ($750) -- Improve Ubuntu's wizard for wireless and wired networking.

Video resolution ($750) -- Develop graphic-card configuration GUI that supports Xorg options.

Update GUI ($750) -- Make GNOME's "system tray update notifier and installer" TV friendly.

Error and problem reporter ($500) -- Develop GUI app for interacting with Neuros tech support.Born also reports that Boxee, which offers an alpha-stage "social" media center "Boxee" Linux distribution, is porting the distro to the Neuros LINK. Boxee is designed to stream social networking content from various free and commercial Internet sources, and download videos, music, and photos to Linux desktops. Boxee is currently working on a version supporting direct Netflix downloads.


More details on the Neuros LINK bounties should be available here.

Linux SDK straddles DIY, commercial approaches  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Linux professional services and consulting firm Embedded Alley (EA) is edging into the embedded Linux tools business with its own software development kit (SDK). EA's "Embedded Alley Development System for Linux-based Devices" combines open-source software and services, and "facilitates build and integration of in-house and third-party commercial software," says EA.

The Embedded Alley Development System includes cross compilers, a choice of Glibc or uClibc C libraries, debuggers, prepared file system images, and product-specific supporting libraries, says EA. For source-level debugging, a graphical, Eclipse-based IDE (integrated development environment) is provided, enabling users to step through source code, scripts, and configurations. (See farther below for more details.)

Buy and DIY

EA is selling its development system outright, as well as continuing to offer consulting services based on the offering. The product is touted as a happy medium between commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) Linux toolkits -- which EA notes often lock developers into outdated or unwanted components and limit interoperability -- and DIY or RYO (roll-your-own) development models, which can prove time-consuming.

The Embedded Alley Development System offers an embedded SDK for ARM and MIPS platforms, aimed at board-level port, driver, and application development, says EA. The software is said to include "stable current versions" of open-source kernels, libraries, tools, and utilities. However, EA also enables OEMs to acquire and swap in their own kernels and components from sources including, other open source repositories, or vendor and supplier sites, says the company.

OEMs can select Linux kernel versions, patches, and other software from the package, as well as run dependency and compatibility checks across the components, integrate new versions of existing components, or add new tools. Alternatively, they can hire Embedded Alley to customize all or parts of the system for them.

Linux SDK straddles DIY, commercial approaches

Matthew Locke
A Twist on the Timesys model

According to EA's COO, Matthew Locke, the product is an extension of the Silicon Vendor Partner Program (SVPP) announced in April. With the ongoing SVPP, EA works from a similar SDK, but offers customized, pre-validated versions that vendors can freely distribute. EA also provides mainline kernel maintenance and regression testing as part of the program.

"We've turned the tools that we're using internally for the SVPP into a standard offering," said Locke in an interview. "The partner program is different in that we give our partners a complete pretested system and kernel that they can hand out to their customers as a reference."

The Embedded Alley Development System is somewhat similar to Timesys's LinuxLink subscriptions, Locke allowed, but with a difference. "What we have done is rolled it into a package that you can download and install like a more standard SDK," said Locke. "Instead of having some of this hidden behind a portal, you have access to everything. There's an ISO image and other tools, so you have a validated started point, and you can add on top of that. You can swap in and out internal tools, or add additional tools."

Specific features of the package are said to include:Eclipse-based graphical IDE, as well as command-line development environments

Enables rebuilding from source using a preconfigured build system

Standard Ubuntu hosting (other hosts available)

Latest-stable GNU toolchain (Glibc or uClibc), and Gdbserver

Fully tested, latest-stable Linux kernel, with kernel source preconfigured to hardware

Startup scripts and utilities optimized for Fastboot, Udev, Busybox, Dropbear, Network setup, Ppp, and Mtd-Utils

Utilities for testing and test load, including Bonnie++, Netperf, and Crashme

Pre-configured root file system images: UBIFS and squashfs flash file system for production, and NFS root filesystem for development

Test utilities and setup

Documentation, including user guide and test planStated Pete Popov, Embedded Alley CEO, "We created the Development System to give OEMs the 'best of both worlds', COTS and custom. Our goal is to enable OEMs to build the widest range of embedded applications, with up-to-date project code, without having to replace their build systems or reinvent development practices."


The Embedded Alley Development System for Linux devices is available now, says EA, at an undisclosed price. The software will be demonstrated, along with its recently announced Application Modeling solutions for NAND flash at CES in Las Vegas, January 8-11, at the EA suite at the Mirage Hotel.

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Ultra-light ebook reader runs Linux  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Ultra-light ebook reader runs Linux

PDF software company Foxit is readying an electronic book reader that weighs 6.4 ounces, measures 0.4 inches thick, and runs Linux. The Foxit eSlick offers E Ink's low-power electronic-paper display, ships with an MP3 player, and sells for $100 less than an Amazon Kindle.

(Click for larger view of the eSlick)

Ultra-light ebook reader runs Linux

Hanlin eReader V3
(Click for details)
As if spurred on by the success of the hard-to-come-by Amazon Kindle, which was rekindled by a recent endorsement by Oprah Winfrey, more and more vendors appear to be jumping into the ebook market. Like the Kindle, many of the new ebooks run Linux, and nearly all use the low-power E Ink EPD display technology.

The eSlick appears to be very similar to the recently introduced Hanlin eReader V3, as well as Bookeen's Cybook, which is on sale in Europe. Both of those products run Linux (Wolf Linux in Hanlin's case), offer similar 7.2 x 4.7 x 0.4-inch dimensions, provide similar USB and MP3 player features, and share the same E Ink 6-inch, 800x600 gray-scale display.

Whereas the eReader V3 and Cybook use the Samsung S3C2410 clocked at 200MHz, the eSlick runs the faster Samsung S3C2440, which offers an ARM920T RISC core clocked at 400MHz. The eSlick provides more memory than the Hanlin and Bookeen readers, with 128MB RAM, and like these two E Ink cousins, it supplies an SD card slot for storage, in this case offering a 2GB card standard, expandable to 4GB.

Ultra-light ebook reader runs Linux

eSlick in white

The eSlick boasts up to 8,000 pages of continuous reading on a single charge, Foxit claims. An actual duration claim in hours is not provided, because EPD displays use power only to set an image, and none to maintain it. For more about EPD technology, see E Ink's AM-100 EPD dev kit.

E Ink says its technology has appeared in a variety of watches and other consumer electronic products from Seiko, Citizen, and Microsoft. It is also used in Sony's LibriE e-book, which is available in Japan. Linux ebook readers that use E Ink e-paper include the Readius, Amazon Kindle, eRead Star eBook STK-101, and the original iRex iLiad.

Ultra-light ebook reader runs Linux

eSlick up close

Aside from the low weight, the key asset that seems to differentiate the eSlick is Foxit's embedded display software. The ebook reader offers Foxit Reader preinstalled, providing features including font controls with text reflow, and a zoom capability that is said to enlarge pages from 50 percent to 400 percent. Format support is limited to PDF and TXT files, but the device ships with Foxit's PC-based PDF Creator software, which is said to convert any printable document with formats including TXT, PPT, DOC, XLS, and HTML to PDF document format. Documents can then be downloaded to the eSlick via the USB connection. The Creator software, however, only runs on Windows.

Ultra-light ebook reader runs Linux

The eSlick includes an MP3 player

Specifications listed for the eSlick include:Processor -- Samsung S3C2440 ARM 400MHz
Memory -- 128MB
Flash expansion -- SD Card slot (2GB card included); supports up to 4GB
Display -- 6-inch E Ink Vizplex screen with 600 x 800 resolution and 166 dpi, 4-level gray scale
USB -- 1 x USB 2.0 port (cable included)
Audio -- MP3 player; earphones and adapter
Controls -- Buttons for power, up, down, left, right, enter, delete, menu, and music
Plugs -- Euro 2Pin, UK 3Pin, US 2Pin
Battery -- rechargeable Lithium
Case colors -- black, gray, or white
Dimensions -- 7.4 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches (188 Ч 118 Ч 9.2mm)
Weight -- 6.4 oz (180g) with battery; AC adapter included
Text formats -- PDF, TXT
Bundled software -- Foxit Reader Pro Pack, PDF Creator, PDF Editor (trial); PDF Page Organizer Pro (trial)
Operating system -- embedded LinuxAvailability

The Foxit eSlick will be available in January for an introductory price of $230 (standard price $260). More information may be available here.

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Linux-friendly multi-core SPARC dev kit ships  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Linux-friendly multi-core SPARC dev kit ships

Sun Microsystems is shipping an UltraSPARC T2 Reference Design Kit (RDK) for developing and testing embedded systems designs using the UltraSPARC T2 multicore processor. The RDK is available now for Solaris, with a Wind River Linux version due in early 2009, says Sun.

(Click for larger view of the UltraSPARC T2 RDK)

Wind River and Sun announced the Wind River UltraSPARC T2 support back in April, saying at the time that multiple independent Linux vendors would support the chip. For the new reference design kit, however, the only supported Linux platform announced was Wind River's Platform for Network Equipment (PNE).

Linux-friendly multi-core SPARC dev kit ships

UltraSPARC T2 RDK block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

The UltraSPARC T2 RDK is aimed at letting tools systems designers design, test, and verify UltraSPARC T2-based designs, says Sun. The eATX form-factor motherboard is equipped with an UltraSPARC T2, memory, PCIe and XAUI slots, and four gigabit Ethernet ports, along with other connectivity.

Specifications for the UltraSPARC T2 RDK include:Processor -- UltraSPARC T2 1.2GHz processor; eight cores, each at 1.17 GHz, with 64 threads per CPU
Memory -- 8 x FB-DIMM ("fully buffered" DIMM) slots (min. four populated)
Storage -- 2 x SAS/SATA connectors; 1 x IDE DVD drive connector
Expansion -- 3 x PCIe slots (x16, x8, x4 configuration); 2 x XAUI slots
Networking -- 4 x gigabit Ethernet ports
USB -- 2 x USB 2.0 ports
Serial -- 1 x serial POSIC port
Power -- 650 Watt power supply
Dimensions -- 12 x 13 inches (eATX form-factor motherboard)
Remote management -- via service processor module
Firmware -- OpenBoot, Hypervisor, POST, Integrated Lights Out Manager (ILOM)
Other software -- board level design database; CMT development tools
Operating system -- Solaris 10 and Wind River Linux boot options

Linux-friendly multi-core SPARC dev kit ships

Sun's Netra CP3260
ATCA Blade Server
(Click for details)
Wind River PNE will first appear on Sun's Netra Carrier Grade rack servers and ATCA blade CMT systems, according to Wind River. The latter includes the recently announced Sun Netra CP3260 ATCA Blade Server (pictured). Both are based on the eight-core, 64-thread UltraSPARC T2, which Sun introduced in August 2007. Wind River completed an evaluation port of its CGL stack to Sun's 64-bit multicore, multi-threaded UltraSPARC T1 in November 2006. Earlier that year, Sun released the processor design for the T1 under the GNU GPL open source license.

The eight-core UltraSPARC T2 uses Sun's chip-multithreading (CMT) processor technology to help triple performance on network-based processor designs, claims Sun. The processor is also touted for lowering processor parts counts by a third or more and reducing power and heat emissions. The eight cores are clocked at 900 MHz to 1.4GHz, yet require less than 95 watts (nominal) overall, and less than two watts per thread, claims Sun. The T2 also is also said to offer integrated multithreading of 10Gb Ethernet networking, as well as integrated PCI Express I/O expansion, and floating point and cryptographic processing units.

Linux-friendly multi-core SPARC dev kit ships

UltraSPARC T2 block diagram

According to Sun, the Wind River support "vastly increases Sun's potential market for CMT processors in the embedded systems industry, and lets embedded systems designers leverage their existing tools and application expertise."

Stated Glenn Seiler, senior director of market development at Wind River, "Increasingly, equipment providers want to take advantage of the benefits of open source while also taking advantage of the performance and cost of high performance multicore processors."


The Solaris version of the UltraSPARC T2 Reference Design Kit is now available for order, here, where more information should also be available. A T2 port of Wind River's Platform for Network Equipment, Linux Edition, will be available in early 2009, says Sun.

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MontaVista adds big-endian ARM11 port  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

[Updated: 3PM] -- MontaVista announced what it calls the "first-ever" support in a Linux environment for ARM11 processors in big-endian mode. Presumably, the big-endian port of MontaVista Linux opens the door to more IPv6-friendly mobile devices, or greater use of ARM in telecommunications, where big-endian has long been standard.

MontaVista says its big-endian ARM11 port works on Freescale i.MX3x SoCs with ARM1176JZ-S and ARM1176JZF-S cores, which were announced in late 2003 and shipped in 2004. (See below for more information.)

In announcing the port, MontaVista called attention to its claim of having the only mobile Linux distribution certified to support IPv6. Among other benefits, Linux's IPv6 support can increase battery life in mobile devices, by obviating the frequent "keep-alive" messages that devices behind an ipmasq (NAT) firewall are required to send. MontaVista also noted that its Linux kernels power "a majority of today's Linux handsets."

Like many other RISC architectures, ARM is bi-endian, and thus can be configured to access data either from left-to-right (big endian) or right-to-left (little endian). MontaVista supports both modes in the following varieties, wrote a company spokesperson in an email:arm_v6_be -- big endian
arm_v6_le -- little endian
arm_v6_vfp_le -- virtual floating point little endian
arm_v6_vfp_le_uclibc -- virtual floating point little endian, micro C- libraryTraditionally, little endian mode has been favored over big endian because it simplifies bit-wise math. The most mature ARM Linux ports arguably use little-endianness. However, big endian (also called "network order," according to Wikipedia) is used in Internet Protocol, as well as in telecommunications systems, because it is said to enable faster routing of compressed data.

According to the spokesperson, as far as he knows, the company is the only Linux commercialization vendor supporting both big and little endian modes for ARM11. Big-endian has been adopted for ARM11 processors by products such as the Texas Instruments Puma5 cable modem processor, "which has gotten a lot of attention and activity in the market," said the spokesperson.

Going mobile: the ARM1176JZx

Both the ARM1176JZ-S and ARM1176JZF-S cores are based on the ARMv6 instruction set implemented in ARM11 cores, and the JZF-S version offers a floating-point coprocessor. The cores were said to be the first to offer ARM's TrustZone security technology, as well as the first to offer its Intelligent Energy Manager firmware.

In 2006, ARM released a faster, lower-power die-shrunk version of the JZF-S, targeting SoCs fabricated using 90nm rather than the older 0.13-micron processes. The new version can be clocked to 750MHz (up from 550MHz), and boasts lower power draw, claimed to be under 500mW.

The ARM1176JZF-S is featured in STMicroelectronics's STn8820 SoC, designed for running HD video on mobile devices, as well as Freescale's new i.MX37 SoC, which is aimed at the portable media player (PMP), mobile Internet, and personal navigation device (PND) markets.

Freescale's older i.MX31, meanwhile, uses the ARM1176JZ-S version of the core. In June of this year, MontaVista announced that its Mobilinux 5.0 version of MontaVista Linux had been optimized for the i.MX31.

Stated Patrick MacCartee, director of product management at MontaVista, "ARM is constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to performance-to-watt ratio, and the ARM11 processor family gives unparalleled performance while doubling battery life."

Kerry McGuire, ARM's director of strategic software alliances, stated, "Support for big endian code enables partners to bring high quality products to market faster."


MontaVista Linux with big endian support for the ARM1176JZ-S and ARM1176JZF-S cores is available now, says MontaVista.

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Appliance distro broadens Linux options  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

rPath announced that its rBuilder "build and release" customizaton and management system for ISVs (software vendors) building hardware appliances and/or virtual appliances is adding support for Ubuntu and CentOS Linux. rPath previously supported Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise, as well as its own rPath Linux "software appliance" distribution.

rPath says rBuilder reflects the company's motto of "Just Enough OS" (JeOS). The tool creates minimal filesystem images particularly suitable for deployment in virtualized environments, the company suggests. The new Ubuntu and CentOS options work with rPath's Lifecycle Management Platform, a part of rBuilder aimed at managing application images in virtualized environments, via a web interface.

rPath Linux and Conary

In May, rPath announced version 2.0 of its rPath Linux distribution, which is use by ISVs (independent software vendors) to deliver their products as pre-installed hardware-appliances, or as "software appliances" -- pre-configured Linux server stacks suitable for installation by users on real or virtual commodity hardware. For example, ISV Digium tapped rPath for its AsteriskNow software appliance, an open-source IP PBX (private branch exchange) system. Version 2.0 of rPath Linux reduced footprint, while adding a brandable boot splash, new security features, and an "appliance installer."

rPath was founded in 2006, by Eric Troan, former Red Hat CTO, and Michael K. Johnson and Matt Wilson. The three are known for inventing Conary, the flexible package management system used in both rPath Linux and rBuilder.

Stated Al Gillen, program VP, System Software at IDC, "By expanding the list of Linux deployment options, rPath opens up new market opportunities both for itself and for its customers."

Stated rPath CTO Troan, "We're committed to an open and independent approach to the operating system."


rPath did not provide availability information for the Ubuntu and CentOS versions of rBuilder. More information on rBuilder may be found here, and more on the rPath Lifecycle Management Platform should be here.

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Debug tool targets PowerQUICC processor  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Debug tool targets PowerQUICC processor

Ronetix announced the availability of new PowerPC firmware for its Linux-friendly JTAG/BDM emulator and flash programmer. The PEEDI JTAG/BDM Emulator and Flash Programmer now supports the Freescale PowerQUICC II Pro MPC83XX processor, says the vendor.

The PEEDI ("powerful embedded Ethernet debugging interface") has previously supported Freescale Nexus-enabled PowerPC and ColdFire processors, but this is the first support for the PowerPC-based PowerQUICC II Pro. Other supported processors include ARM11, ARM7, ARM9, XScale, and ADI Blackfin.

Debug tool targets PowerQUICC processor

Debug tool targets PowerQUICC processor

PEEDI, front and back

The firmware supports both debugging and flash programming on PowerQUICC II Pro MPC83XX processors, says Austria-based Ronetix. The family includes the MPC8630E and MPC8349E processors, which are based on an e300 PowerPC core clocked at up to 667MHz. Aimed at high-end networking applications, the chips also include Freescale's QUICC networking engine, clocked at up to 500MHz. The QUICC engine offers hardware-accelerated support for Ethernet, ATM, POS, TDM, and other networking line protocols.

Debug tool targets PowerQUICC processor

Freescale PowerQuicc II MPC8360E architecture
(Click to enlarge)

The PEEDI's built-in "Flash Programmer" supports programming of over 900 NOR flash devices and 8-bit and 16-bit NAND flash devices connected to a MPC83XX CPU via the JTAG interface, says Ronetix. Methods provided for ECC calculations, including bad block management and clean markers, are said to include hardware ECC using the MPC8313 NAND flash controller, standard software ECC for JFFS2, and ECC for YAFFS2. Because PEEDI supports several flash profiles, developers can program a complete Linux system at once, including U-Boot, the Linux kernel, and the JFFS2 root filesystem, says the company.


The PowerQUICC II firmware update for the PEEDI JTAG/BDM Emulator and Flash Programmer is available now. More information is available here.

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GbE "switch-on-a-chip" runs eCos  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Vitesse Semiconductor announced a second generation of its ARM9-based "switch-on-a-chip" that runs the open source eCos RTOS (real-time operating system). The 24-port SparX-II-24 and 16-port SparX-II-16 target networking applications requiring "content-aware" security, failover protection, and quality-of-service (QoS) filtering, says the company.

Vitesse says the SparX-II chips offer wire-speed, deep packet inspection for security and other heavy packet inspection applications, says Vitesse. Target applications include web-managed, or SNMP-managed standalone switches, including mbedded switch backplane applications, modular computer servers, and DSLAMs (DSL access multiplexers). Additional applications for the 24-port version include VoIP, IPTV, WLAN, and "triple-play" (voice, data, video) enabled switches, says the company.

The SparX-II chipset is built around the company's ARM926EJ-S-based "VCore-II" CPU. It also includes Vitesse's VCAP co-processor core, which seems to be derived from Cisco's Ternary Content-Addressable Memory (TCAM) technology. The SparX-II-24 boasts a 1184KB on-chip frame buffer and 24 gigabit Ethernet ports, while the SparX-II-16 offers an 800KB frame buffer and 16 ports. Otherwise, the two chipsets appear to be identical.

GbE switch-on-a-chip runs eCos

SparX-II-24 block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

Vitesse says the VCAP co-processor can deliver "wide" data searches in short, fixed time periods, supporting in- or out-bound wire-speed packet inspection, frame filtering, rate limitation, snooping, redirect, mirroring, and accounting functions, says the company. The processor is said to provide "content awareness" for protocols including ARP, IPv4, IPv6, and UDP/TCP. Redundancy switching times, meanwhile, are claimed to be "significantly below" the 50ms SONET telecom specification.

Features listed for the SparX-II chipsets include:VCore-II ARM926EJ-S CPU (clock not specified, but the core is typically clocked to 400MHz)
VCAP processor for inbound and outbound wire-speed packet inspection
1184KB on-chip frame buffer (800KB on SparX-II-16)
24 x 10/100/1000 Mbps SGMII/SerDes Ethernet interfaces (16 x ports on SparX-II-16)
8KB MAC addresses
4KB VLANs (IEEE802.1Q)
8KB IPv4/IPv6 multicast group support
DSCP remarking for both IPv4 and IPv6 frames
QoS control lists for programmable QoS classification
Traffic shapers for rate limitation of ingress and egress traffic
Metro Ethernet Forum-specified (MEF) Carrier Ethernet
Vitesse Copper PHY voltage-mode line driver and power management technology
Supports most L2 switching protocols, including MSTP, LACP, LLDP, and IGMP snooping
Third-party software support for Power over Ethernet and Synchronous Ethernet
eCos real-time operating system (RTOS)eCos offers a smaller footprint than Linux, making it more suitable for a wide range of lower-powered embedded systems. Developed and maintained for years by Red Hat via its Cygnus acquisition, eCos has been primarily maintained by eCosCentric since all its patents were unified under the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in 2004.

Stated Martin Olsen, product marketing manager for Vitesse, "SparX-II delivers against high security and advanced prioritization challenges so that our Carrier Network, backplane, and SME customers can meet design challenges."


The SparX-II-16 (also called the VSC7401) and the SparX-II-24 (VSC7405) are in full production, says Vitesse. More information on the SparX-II-16 may be found here, and more on the SparX-II-24 should be here.

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MIPS-like 32-core SoC runs Linux  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

MIPS-like 32-core SoC runs Linux

Tilera is shipping a 36-core version of its 64-core Tile64 SoC (system-on-chip). Aimed at graphics-intensive embedded applications and networking devices, the TilePro36 clocks from 600MHz to 900MHz, consumes 9-13 Watts (typical), and runs Linux on each, some, or all cores.

The Tile SoCs are based on a proprietary VLIW (very long instruction word) architecture, on which a MIPS-like RISC architecture is implemented in microcode. A hypervisor enables each core to run its own instance of Linux -- or other OSes, once they become available. Alternatively, the whole chip can run Tilera's SMP (symmetrical multiprocessing) Linux implementation.

Tilera first announced the TilePro36 in September, concurrently with a 64-way TilePro model. The chips are fabbed on 90nm process technology at TMSC.

The TilePro36 targets mid-range (1-5Gbps) networking and security applications, videoconferencing endpoints, and midrange multimedia applications, says the company. Touted functionality includes the ability to deliver 5Gbps of Snort intrusion prevention processing, three streams of H.264 1080p video encode, and five channels of wireless OFDM processing.

MIPS-like 32-core SoC runs Linux

TilePro36 block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

MIPS-like 32-core SoC runs Linux

MDE architecture
(Click to enlarge)The TilePro36 offers three DDR2 memory controllers and a "complementary" set of high speed I/O interfaces. Other touted specs include:36 processor cores, each with integrated L1 and L2 cache
3.2MB on-chip cache
3 x 72-bit DDR2 memory interfaces (selectable ECC)
2 x gigabit Ethernet interfaces
10Gbps XAUI Ethernet interface
4-lane PCI Express interfaceDeveloper kit

The TilePro SoCs are supported by the company's Linux development kit, called the Multicore Development Environment (MDE) (see diagram at right). The Eclipse-based kit includes an SMP Linux 2.6 kernel, toolchains, and several tools aimed at easing parallel programming. Specifically, these include some profiling tools presumably aimed at helping to identify which parts of an application to parallelize, and an "iLib" parallel programming library aimed at making inter-core communications more efficient by abstracting process management, and providing "socket-like" streaming channels and message passing mechanisms.

MIPS-like 32-core SoC runs Linux

(Click to enlarge)
A TilexpressPro-36 PCIe developer board is available for the SoC, says Tilera, but it did not provide further information. The company has, however, posted details on the TilexpressPro-64 PCIe (pictured at left), which incorporates the TilePro64 SoC, and offers an L2-L3 Ethernet switch, six to 12 gigabit Ethernet ports, and an optional mezzanine expansion board connector.

Stated Omid Tahernia, Tilera's president and CEO, "Our customers across market segments look for their high-end solutions to scale down to the mid-range while preserving their software investment. The pin-compatible TILEPro36 fulfills this need."

According to Tilera, more than 45 customers are using its older 64-core Tile64 SoC, which was announced in August 2007.


The TilePro36 processor is now sampling along with the TilexpressPro-36 PCIe developer platform, says Tilera. More information should be available here. For more on the TilePro technology, see our earlier coverage.

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Panel PCs claimed "waterproof"  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Panel PCs claimed waterproof

Aaeon has announced three "waterproof" panel PCs that are equipped with touchscreen displays and Intel Celeron processors. The Fox-80, Fox-120, and Fox-150 panel PCs feature ports and surfaces that all meet the IP65 standard for water resistance, according to the company.

(Click here for a larger view of Aaeon's Fox-80, which the Fox-120 and Fox-150 also closely resemble)

Many touchscreen panel PCs boast compliance with the IEC IP65 rating, signifying that a device has been sealed against intrusion by dust, water, and other liquids. Most often, however, that rating just applies to a device's front bezel, requiring the rest of the PC to be protected inside a wall or other housing.

Aaeon says its new "Fox" panel PCs, on the other hand, are sealed on every surface, and even include waterproof port protectors. The devices have metal enclosures, "daylight readable" displays, and Intel Celeron processors, according to the company.

The Fox-80, Fox-120, and Fox-150 have eight-inch, 12-inch, and 15-inch touchscreen displays, respectively, as their names suggest. The Fox-80 and Fox-120 offer 800 x 600 resolution, while the Fox-150 steps up to 1024 x 768.

While all three models are based on Intel's 852GM chipset, according to Aaeon, the Fox-80 provides a 1.0GHz Celeron M ULV processor, and either 512MB or 1GB of RAM. The Fox-120 and Fox-150, on the other hand, have Celeron M processors running at 600MHz or 1.5GHz, and a memory complement ranging from 256MB to 1GB of RAM.

The devices all have Mini-PCI expansion slots, as well as internal CompactFlash expansion slots, says the company. The Fox-120 and Fox-120 also have bays for 2.5-inch hard disk drives.

Standard I/O for each of the Foxes is said to include one RS232 port, one RS232/422/485 port, and, of course, a power input that accepts a 9 to 30VDC supply. An audio line output and a 10/100 Ethernet port with an RJ45 connector are, unusually, both listed as optional. The devices are apparently available with wireless LAN and GPS functionality, though no details were provided.

Features and specifications listed by Aaeon for the Fox-80, Fox-120, and Fox-150 include:Processor:1.0GHz Celeron M ULV (Fox-80)
1.5GHz or 600MHz Celeron M (Fox-120 and Fox-150)Memory:512MB or 1GB of RAM (Fox-80)
256MB, 512MB, or 1GB of RAM (Fox-120 and Fox-150)Storage -- CompactFlash and, on Fox-120 and Fox-150, 2.5-inch hard disk drive bays
Keys -- four (not detailed further)
Display:8-inch display with 800 x 600 resolution (Fox-80)
12-inch display with 800 x 600 resolution (Fox-120)
15-inch display with 1024 x 768 resolution (Fox-150)Networking -- 10/100 Ethernet (optional)
Other I/O:1 x RS232
1 x RS232/422/485
Audio line out (optional)Expansion:Mini-PCI slot
CompactFlashDimensions:Fox-80 -- 10.5 x 7.6 x 2.4 inches (266 x 192 x 59.8mm)
Fox-120 -- 13.58 x 11.1 x 2.36 inches (345 x 282 x 60mm)
Fox-150 -- 16.14 x 14.41 x 2.36 inches (410 x 366 x 60mm)Weight:Fox-80 -- 6.6 pounds (3kg)
Fox-120 -- 9.9 pounds (4.5kg)
Fox-150 -- 13.2 pounds (6kg)Power requirements -- 9 to 30VDC
Operating temperature:Fox-80 -- -20 to 50 deg. C (-4 to 122 deg. F)
Fox-120 and Fox-150 -- -20 to 55 deg. C (-4 to 131 deg. F)Aaeon did not cite pricing and availability for the Fox-80, Fox-120, and Fox-150, but the devices appear to be available now. For operating system support, the company lists Windows XP Embedded and Windows XP Professional. However, given the X86 architecture and the fact that the vast majority of Aaeon's single-board computers support Linux, it is likely that the Fox family could run Linux, as well.

More information may be found on the Aaeon website, here.

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Linux devices gain multimedia "Octopus"  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Linux devices gain multimedia Octopus

Movial has joined the Khronos Group, and released an interesting "media engine" under the LGPL. The "Movial Octopus Media Engine" targets Linux devices such as MIDs and netbooks equipped with players, voice/video call applications, and other media applications.

"Movial Octopus Media Engine" provides a central point of contact for "all" multimedia use cases on a Linux-based device, according to Movial. It includes an API (application programming interface) for management of local or network-based media, and works with either GStreamer or OpenMAX IL (integration layer) components for transporting and rendering media files.

Movial has a long history of working with Nokia on Maemo, the community project creating software for Nokia's Linuxbased N8x0 tablet devices. And sure enough, the Octopus source code includes some files specific to Nokia's N8x0 devices. The release today of Octopus may be timed to coincide with the approaching debut of Maemo 5, which softly launched in a pre-alpha release last week.

Linux devices gain multimedia Octopus

The "Octopus" does indeed have eight appendages, at least in this system flow chart
(Click to enlarge)

The Octopus client API is currently based on D-Bus, but a 2009 release will add an OpenMAX AL (application layer) API, says the company. OpenMAX AL appears to be aimed at providing a standard way for media apps to exploit the media acceleration hardware increasingly built into system-on-chip (SoC) processors for the device market (more OpenMAX details below).

OpenMAX targets code acceleration

The OpenMAX standard that underlies Octopus is one of many developed by the Khronos Group, a member-funded consortium that develops cross-platform, royalty-free standards for mobile and embedded devices. Khronos is best known for its OpenGL and OpenGL ES graphics standards, but the group also hosts standards including Collada (COLLAborative Design Activity), which standardizes interchange file formats for interactive 3D applications, and the OpenKODE royalty-free alternative to Microsoft DirectX.

Linux devices gain multimedia Octopus

OpenMAX architecture
(Click to enlarge)

The OpenMAX API aims to make accelerated streaming media codecs more portable across multiple operating systems (OSes) and processor platforms, says the group. Sometimes likened to an "open source The API will be shipped with processors, says Khronos, enabling library and codec developers to more easily tap the media acceleration technologies provided by a variety of hardware architectures.

OpenMAX includes integration, development, and application layers:Integration Layer (IL) -- defines standardized media component interface for integrating and communicating with hardware- or software-based multimedia codecs across multiple OSes

Development Layer (DL) -- includes audio, video and imaging functions that can be implemented on new CPUs , hardware engines, and DSPs (digital signal processors), for accelerating codecs such as MPEG-4 and MP3

Application Layer (AL) -- standardizes accelerated capture and playback of audio, video, and images on embedded and mobile devices, and specifies features such as creating and controlling player and recorder objects and connecting them to configurable I/O objects ranging from cameras to radiosHelsinki-based Movial keeps sales offices in Palo Alto, Calif., Shanghai, China, and Hong Kong. It employs 120, of which about half work on the "Social Communicator", an IMS client for desktop and mobile OSes. The other half comprise the Creative Technologies team that is responsible for the Movial IXS stack for phones and other mobile devices. In addition to these commercial products, and the open source Octopus and D-Bus Bridge code, Movial has launched other open source projects including Scratchbox and Matrix.

Stated Tomi Rauste, President of Movial Creative Technologies. "Movial greatly values the work of the Khronos Group -- especially in reducing the fragmentation in the mobile Linux market through open APIs."

Movial last month made a separate LGPL code release, of its D-Bus Bridge technology. That contribution to the Linux device community comprises Webkit and Gecko extensions that harness the open-source D-Bus inter-process communication (IPC) technology, with the aim of giving local or "privileged" Javascript/HTML widgets more power to interact with the systems they run on.


The open source "Movial Octopus Media Engine" for Linux is available for free download, here.

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