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Linux embedded development solutions available for Asians

Posted: 03 Mar 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:linux? embedded os? operating system? software development? gnu?

With a firm base of at least 10 million users worldwide, the popularity of Linux as an embedded OS is growing exponentially. Since 1991, Linux has evolved to a dominant embedded OS that rivals traditional small-footprint OS like VxWorks. The software development environment for Linux has evolved from the "do-everything-yourself" days to complete development tool suites that easily enable software development in a variety of applications.

Nearly all development software for Linux is free and covered under the GNU Public License, which guarantees that it will always remain free. The source code for most Linux programs is freely available and is often included by default. This ensures that software can be more rapidly developed when compared to traditional methods.

A potential problem arises if the OEM customer lacks the expertise or time to develop the software for their product. To address this issue, it is important to recognize the types of software that are available for embedded Linux development. Customers' capabilities vary, especially in Asia, and are determined by the amount of resources, depth of development expertise, and time-to-market available.

For integrated communications processor vendors like IDT, several options are offered to expedite development of software with embedded Linux. Requirements for software development vary from basic board support packages (BSPs) to full application packages that are essentially "plug and play," thus taking the guesswork out of the interoperability and reliability of the software with the hardware platform prior to product release.

If the customer's development team is familiar with embedded Linux, all that may be needed is the BSP for the hardware platform. Many semiconductor vendors provide this basic package. For instance, IDT delivers the basic kernel, various device drivers, and a basic GNU compiler tool chain. It is assumed that the developer has the knowledge and resources to add their own applications once they have the basic hardware drivers and protocols up and running. At this level, the customer may not have the financial resources to buy the software they need for a specific application, but the customer does have the technical resources to use the basic kernels and tools provided and develop software to suit the specific system application.

Some embedded Linux software development vendors provide a comprehensive suite of development tools and components. These suites normally include cross compilers, debuggers, editors, configuration tools, device drivers, file systems, networking stacks and utilities. Bundling the various tools together enables the OEM customer to work with an integrated development environment that is proven, tested and interoperable. The time saved by using these tools outweighs the cost.

Vendors like MontaVista, REDSonic, Viosoft, Jungo and Metrowerks have a variety of solutions for development environments for embedded Linux.

- Sandra Chang

Integrated Device Technology Inc.

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