Free Electrons becomes Bootlin

Bootlin logo

Free Electrons is changing to a new name, in the context of a trademark dispute.

Reasons for changing

On July 25, 2017, the company FREE SAS, a French telecom operator, known as the owner of the free.fr website, filed a complaint before the District Court of Paris against Free Electrons and its founder Michael Opdenacker for infringing upon 3 trademarks which include the word “free” and on FREE SAS’s rights on its domain name and its company name.

In this complaint, FREE SAS asked, among others, the French judges to order Free Electrons and its founder Michael Opdenacker to pay the total sum of 107,000 euros on various grounds, to order Free Electrons to change name, to delete the domain name “free-electrons.com” within 15 days and to cease all use of the sign “FREE ELECTRONS” but also of the term “free” alone or with any other terms in any field in which FREE SAS is active or for any goods and services covered by its prior trademarks.

Michael Opdenacker and Free Electrons’ management consider that these claims are unfounded as both companies were coexisting peacefully since 2005.

The services we offer are different, we target a different audience (professionals instead of individuals), and most of our communication efforts are in English, to reach an international audience. Therefore Michael Opdenacker and Free Electrons’ management believe that there is no risk of confusion between Free Electrons and FREE SAS.

However, FREE SAS has filed in excess of 100 oppositions and District Court actions against trademarks or names containing “free”. In view of the resources needed to fight this case, Free Electrons has decided to change name without waiting for the decision of the District Court.

This will allow us to stay focused on our projects rather than exhausting ourselves fighting a long legal battle.

The new name

Amongst all the new names we considered, “Bootlin” came out as our favorite option. It can’t express all our values but it corresponds to what we’ve been working on since the beginning and hope to continue to do for many years: booting Linux on new hardware.

Of course, “booting” here shouldn’t be limited to getting a first shell prompt on new hardware. It means doing whatever is needed to run Linux by taking the best advantage of software and hardware capabilities.

Same team, same passion

Nothing else changes in the company. We are the same engineers, the same Linux kernel contributors and maintainers (now 6 of us have their names in the Linux MAINTAINERS file), with the same technical skills and appetite for new technical challenges.

More than ever, we remain united by the passion we all share in the company since the beginning: working with hardware and low-level software, working together with the free software community, and sharing the experience with others so that they can at least get the best of what the community offers and hopefully one day become active contributors too. “Get the best of the community” is effectively one of our slogans.

Practical details

The only thing we’re changing is the name (“Bootlin” instead of “Free Electrons”), the domain name (bootlin.com instead of free-electrons.com) and the logo. The two penguins, our mascots which have been the key identification of Free Electrons for many years will stay the same. Except for the domain name change, all URLs should stay the same, and all e-mail addresses too.

For the moment, we’ve just migrated the mail and main web servers. The other services will be updated progressively.

For practical reasons, the name of the company running Bootlin will remain “Free Electrons” for a few more months. Until then, there won’t be any impact on the way we interact with our customers. We will let our ongoing customers know when the legal name changes.

What about links to free-electrons.com resources, made by community websites but also in mailing lists archives and in public forums? Of course, we redirected the old URLs to the new ones, and will continue to do so as long as we can. However, depending on the outcome of the legal procedure, we may not be able to keep the free-electrons.com domain forever. Therefore, we would be grateful if you could update all your links to our site whenever feasible, to avoid the risk of broken links in the future.

Bootlin at FOSDEM and Buildroot Developers meeting

The FOSDEM conference will take place next week-end in Brussels, Belgium. As the biggest open-source conference event in Europe, featuring a number of talks related to embedded systems and generally low-level development, Bootlin never misses this event!

Fosdem 2018 logo

This year, Bootlin engineer Miquèl Raynal will be giving a talk Drive your NAND within Linux – Forget the word “nightmare”, sharing details on the enhancements he has contributed to the Linux kernel MTD subsystem, and which are scheduled to be merged in the 4.16 Linux kernel release.

In addition to Miquèl’s talk, a number of other Bootlin engineers will be attending the event: Mylène Josserand, Quentin Schulz, Antoine Ténart, Boris Brezillon and Thomas Petazzoni.

Buildroot logoFinally, Bootlin is also sponsoring the participation of Thomas Petazzoni to the Buildroot Developers Meeting, which is a 2-day event dedicated to the development of the Buildroot embedded Linux build system. With 14 attendees, this event will have the largest number of participants it ever had. We take this opportunity to thank Google and Mind, who are sponsoring the event by providing the meeting room, lunch and social event for the attendees.

Free seat in Android training session

Student penguinsAt Bootlin, we owe a lot to the Free Software community, and we’re doing our best to give back as much as we can.

One way of doing that is welcoming community contributors in our public training sessions about embedded Linux, Linux kernel and Android system development organized in France. We’ve done that multiple times in the past, and this allowed us to meet very interesting people (who even had very valuable experience and points of view to share with the other course participants), while of course giving them extra knowledge that they can use for further contributions.

The next session in which we can offer a free seat is about Android system development, and will take place on June 20-23 in Toulouse, France. The session has a value of 1890 EUR (without V.A.T.) and includes lunch and breaks, as well as a free Beaglebone Black board with its 4.3″ LCD touchscreen cape.

This course will teach you how to modify Android to support a new embedded board (assuming that it is already supported by the Linux kernel), and how to build a real system through accessing specific hardware, customizing the filesystem and using debugging techniques.

How to apply?

  • You need to be a student or a contributor to a free software project, which doesn’t have to be related to the embedded field, and even if your contributions are modest.
  • Write to award@bootlin.com before May. 30 and tell us about your contributions and your interest in the session.
  • Thomas Petazzoni and Michael Opdenacker will review all the proposals and will select the candidate who best stands out in terms of past contributions and/or in potential for further ones after taking the course. Bootlin reserves the right not to select any candidate if nobody actually makes a sufficiently interesting application.
  • The winner will be notified by June 2, and will have to be ready to travel to Toulouse and stay there the whole 4 days at her/his own expense.

Don’t hesitate to apply to this free seat. In past editions, we didn’t have so many people applying, and therefore you have a real chance to get selected!

2016 Q1 newsletter

Newsletter iconThe Bootlin team wishes you a Happy New Year for 2016, with many new bits to enjoy in your life!

Bootlin is happy to take this opportunity to share some news about the latest training and contribution activities of the company.

Bootlin work on the $9 computer

As announced in our previous newsletter, Bootlin has been working intensively on developing the low-level software support for the first $9 computer, the C.H.I.P by Next Thing Co.

Next Thing Co. has successfully delivered an initial batch of platforms in September to the early adopters, and has started shipping the final products in December to thousands of Kickstarter supporters.

Those products are using the U-Boot and Linux kernel ported by Bootlin engineers, with numerous patches submitted to the official projects and more to be submitted in the coming weeks and months:

  • Support for the C.H.I.P platform itself, in U-Boot and in the Linux kernel;
  • Support for audio on Allwinner platforms added to the Linux kernel;
  • Development of a DRM/KMS driver for the graphics controller found on Allwinner platforms;
  • Significant research effort on finding appropriate solutions to support Multi-Level Cell NANDs in the Linux kernel;
  • Enabling of the NAND storage in Single-Level Cell mode, until the Multi-Level Cell mode can be enabled reliably;
  • Addition of NAND support in the fastboot implementation of U-Boot, which is used to reflash the C.H.I.P.

We will continue to work on the C.H.I.P over the next months, with among other things more work on the graphics side and the NAND side.

Kernel contributions

The primary focus of the majority of our customer projects remain the Linux kernel, to which we continue to contribute very significantly.

Linux 4.2

We contributed 203 patches to this release, with a new IIO driver for the ADC found on Marvell Berlin platforms, a big cleanup to the support of Atmel platforms, improvements to the DMA controller driver for Atmel platforms, a completely new driver for the cryptographic accelerator found on Marvell EBU platforms.

In this cycle, our engineer Alexandre Belloni became the official maintainer of the RTC subsystem.

See details on our contributions to Linux 4.2

Linux 4.3

We contributed 110 patches to this release, with mainly improvements to the DRM/KMS driver and DMA controller driver for Atmel platforms and power management improvements for Marvell platforms.

See details on our contributions to Linux 4.3

Linux 4.4

We contributed 112 patches to this release, the main highlights being an additional RTC driver, a PWM driver, support for the C.H.I.P platform, and improvements to the NAND support.

See details on our contributions to Linux 4.4

Work on ARM 64-bit platform

We have started to work on supporting the Linux kernel on several ARM 64 bits platforms from different vendors. We will be submitting the initial patches in the coming weeks and will progressively improve the support for those platforms throughout 2016 where a major part of our Linux kernel contribution effort will shift to ARM 64-bit.

Growing engineering team

Our engineering team, currently composed of six engineers, will be significantly expanded in 2016:

  • Two additional embedded Linux engineers will join us in March 2016 and will be working with our engineering team in Toulouse, France. They will help us on our numerous Linux kernel and Linux BSP projects.
  • An engineering intern will join us starting early February, and will work on setting up a board farm to contribute to the kernelci.org automated testing effort. This will help us do more automated testing on the ARM platforms we work on.

Upcoming training sessions

We have public training sessions scheduled for the beginning of 2016:

Embedded Linux development training
February 29 – March 4, in English, in Avignon (France)
Embedded Linux kernel and driver development training
March 14-18, in English, in Avignon (France)
Android system development training
March 7-10, in English, in Toulouse (France)

We also offer the following training courses, on-site, anywhere in the world, upon request:

Contact us at training@bootlin.com for details.

Conferences

We participated to the Embedded Linux Conference Europe in Dublin in October 2015, and gave a number of talks:

In addition, our engineer Thomas Petazzoni was invited to the Linux Kernel Summit, an invitation-only conference for the kernel maintainers and developers. He participated to the three days event in Seoul, South Korea. See Bootlin at the Linux Kernel Summit 2015.

At the beginning of 2016, our entire engineering team will be attending the Embedded Linux Conference in San Diego (US), which means that no less than 9 engineers from Bootlin will be present at the conference!

Porting Linux on ARM seminar

In December 2015, we gave a half-day seminar entitled “Porting Linux on ARM” in Toulouse (France). The materials, in English, are now freely available on our web site.

ELCE 2015 conference videos available

ELC Europe 2015 logoAs often in the recent years, the Linux Foundation has shot videos of most of the talks at the Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2015, in Dublin last October.

These videos are now available on YouTube, and individual links are provided on the elinux.org wiki page that keeps track of presentation materials as well. You can also find them all through the Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2015 playlist on YouTube.

All this is of course a priceless addition to the on-line slides. We hope these talks will incite you to participate to the next editions of the Embedded Linux Conference, like in San Diego in April, or in Berlin in October this year.

In particular, here are the videos from the presentations from Bootlin engineers.

Alexandre Belloni, Supporting multi-function devices in the Linux kernel

Kernel maintainership: an oral tradition

Tutorial: learning the basics of Buildroot

Our CTO Thomas Petazzoni also gave a keynote (Linux kernel SoC mainlining: Some success factors), which was well attended. Unfortunately, like for some of the other keynotes, no video is available.

UN climate conference: switching to “green” electricity

Wind turbines in Denmark

The United Nations 2015 Climate Change Conference is an opportunity for everyone to think about contributing to the transition to renewable and sustainable energy sources.

One way to do that is to buy electricity that is produced from renewable resources (solar, wind, hydro, biomass…). With the worldwide opening of the energy markets, this should now be possible in most parts of the world.

So, with a power consumption between 4,000 and 5,000 kWh per year, we have decided to make the switch for our main office in Orange, France. But how to choose a good supplier?

Greenpeace turned out to be a very good source of information about this topic, comparing the offerings from various suppliers, and finding out which ones really make serious investments in renewable energy sources.

Here are the countries for which we have found Greenpeace rankings:
Australia France

If you find a similar report for your country, please let us know, and we will add it to this list.

Back to our case, we chose Enercoop, a French cooperative company only producing renewable energy. This supplier has by far the best ranking from Greenpeace, and stands out from more traditional suppliers which too often are just trading green certificates, charging consumers a premium rate without investing by themselves in green energy production.

The process to switch to a green electricity supplier was very straightforward. All we needed was an electricity bill and 15 minutes of time, whether you are an individual or represent a company. From now on, Enercoop will guarantee that for every kWh we consume from the power grid, they will inject the same amount of energy into the grid from renewable sources. There is no risk to see more power outages than before, as the national company operating and maintaining the grid stays the same.

It’s true our electricity is going to cost about 20% more than nuclear electricity, but at least, what we spend is going to support local investments in renewable energy sources, that don’t degrade the fragile environment that keeps us alive.

Your comments and own tips are welcome!

The quest for Linux friendly embedded board makers

Beagle Bone Black boardWe used to keep a list of Linux friendly embedded board makers. When this page was created in the mid 2000s, this page was easy to maintain. Though more and more products were created with Linux, it was still difficult to find good hardware platforms that were supported by Linux.

So, to help community members and system makers selecting hardware for their embedded Linux projects, we compiled a first selection of board makers that were meeting the below criteria:

  • Offering attractive and competitive products
  • At least one product supported Free Software operating systems (such as Linux, eCos and NetBSD.
  • At least one product meeting the above requirements, with a public price (without having to register), and still available on the market.
  • Specifications and documentation directly available on the website (no registration required). Engineers like to study their options on their own without having to share their contact details with salespeople who would then chase them through their entire life, trying to sell inappropriate products to them.
  • Website with an English version.

In the beginning, this was enough to reduce the list to 10-20 entries. However, as Linux continued to increase in popularity, and as hardware platform makers started to understand the value of transparent pricing and technical documentation, the criteria were no longer sufficient to keep the list manageable.

Therefore, we added another prerequisite: at least one product supported (at least partially) in the official version of the corresponding Free Software operating system kernel. This was a rather strong requirement at first, but only such products bring a guarantee for long term community support, making it much easier to develop and maintain embedded systems. Compare this with hardware supporting only a very old and heavily patched Linux kernel, for example, which software can only be maintained by its original developers. This also reveals the ability of the hardware vendor to work with the community and share technical information with its users and developers.

Then, with the development of low-cost community boards, and chip manufacturers efforts to support their hardware in the mainline Linux kernel, the list again became difficult to maintain.

The next prerequisite we could add is the availability as Open-source hardware, allowing customers to modify the hardware according to their needs. Of course, hardware files should be available without registration.

However, rather than keeping our own list, the best is to contribute to Wikipedia, which has a dedicated page on Open-Source computing hardware. At least, all the boards we could find are listed there, after adding a few.

Don’t hesitate to post comments to this page to share information about hardware which could be worth adding to this Wikipedia page!

Anyway, the good news is that Linux and Open-Source friendly hardware is now easier and easier to find than it was about 10 years back. Just have a preference for hardware that is supported in the mainline Linux kernel sources, or at least from a maker with earlier products which are already supported. A git grep -i command in the sources will help.

Embedded Linux internships at Bootlin in 2016

Penguin worksBootlin has internship topics to propose to people studying in French Universities or Engineering Schools:

If you already have a project related to embedded Linux you would like to contribute to, we are also open to your own suggestions!

See all details on our blog post in French.

2015 Q2 newsletter

Bootlin working on the $9 computer!

NextThing Co, a company based in Oakland, California, made the news in the last months by starting a successful crowdfunding campaign to develop a $9 computer! Much like the Raspberry Pi, this $9 computer called C.H.I.P is based on an ARM processor and runs a Linux operating system.

More specifically, at the core of this computer is an Allwinner ARM processor, and Bootlin engineer Maxime Ripard turns out to be the official Linux kernel maintainer for the support of this processor family. Since NextThing Co. is firmly engaged in having software support for the C.H.I.P that is as open-source as possible, they decided to contract us to do a lot of work in the official Linux kernel to improve the support for the Allwinner processor they are using.

Thanks to this project, some of the big missing features in the support of Allwinner processors in the official Linux kernel will be implemented in the coming months, so you can expect to see a lot of contributions from Bootlin on such topics in the future. We’re really excited to be part of the $9 computer adventure!

See our blog post for more details.

Kernel contributions

As usual, we continue to contribute significantly to the Linux kernel, with 100 to 200 or more patches from Bootlin engineers merged at each kernel release. Our focus continues to be on support for various ARM processor families.

  • In Linux 3.19, we had 205 patches merged, making Bootlin the 13th contributing company in number of patches. See details on our 3.19 contributions.
  • In Linux 4.0, we had 252 patches merged, making Bootlin the 6th contributing company in number of patches. See details on our 4.0 contributions.
  • In Linux 4.1, we had 118 patches merged, a smaller amount of contributions. See details.

Some major highlights of our contributions:

  • In Linux 4.0, we merged a complete driver for the display controller of the latest Atmel ARM processors. This DRM/KMS driver, written by Boris Brezillon, allows using the display of those processors with the mainline kernel. It was the last big feature missing in the mainline kernel for the Atmel processors.
  • Our engineer Alexandre Belloni was appointed as the co-maintainer of the RTC subsystem, and also as the co-maintainer of the support for the Atmel processors. As the maintainer of the RTC subsystem, Alexandre is now sending pull requests directly to Linus Torvalds!
  • In Linux 4.1, we completed the conversion of Atmel platform support to the multiplatform paradigm. And we also added support for the latest Armada 39x processor from Marvell.

New training session on Buildroot

Last year, we developed and released a new 3-day training session on the Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded. This year, we are happy to release a new 3-day training course covering the Buildroot embedded Linux build system.

Buildroot is very popular alternate solution to the Yocto Project to build embedded Linux systems, thanks to its ease of use and Buildroot, with Bootlin CTO Thomas Petazzoni being one of the top contributors to the project.

Over the 3 days of this training course, you will learn how to use Buildroot, how to add more packages, how to customize the filesystem generated by Buildroot, how Buildroot works internally and much more!

Check out our agenda, slides, and practical lab instructions for more details.

This training session, taught by Thomas, can be delivered anywhere in the world at your location, or individual participants can attend to our first public training session on this topic in Toulouse (France) in November 2015.

Recent projects

Besides our visible contributions, we also work on a number of projects for customer-specific platforms.

For a French customer making a custom i.MX6 base-board using a System-on-Module from SECO, we ported a recent mainline U-Boot, a 3.10 Freescale kernel, and provided a Buildroot based system with Qt5 and OpenGL acceleration to allow the customer to develop its own applications. Among other things, we had to add support for communication with an FPGA over SPI, and wrote a userspace tool to reprogram this FPGA over SPI.

This project lead to a few U-Boot contributions (support for the SECO module):

And a few Buildroot contributions as well:

For a US based customer, developed a prototype system running on a Nitrogen 6x platform, built by Buildroot, and running the SuperCollider application for audio synthesis.

For a French customer, developed a Yocto Project based BSP for a custom i.MX6 platform. The work involved kernel development to adapt to the hardware and run some Qt5 application under X11.

Conferences

Like we do every year, we participated to the Embedded Linux Conference in San Jose, California: seven engineers from Bootlin attended the conference.

The videos and slides of the three talks we gave have been posted:

  • The DMAengine subsystem, by Maxime Ripard (slides, video).
  • The Device Tree as a stable ABI: a fairy tale?, by Thomas Petazzoni (slides, video).
  • MLC/TLC NAND support: (new ?) challenges for the MTD/NAND subsystem, by Boris Brezillon (slides, video)

For more details about our participation to ELC, see our blob post.

We have submitted several talks for the upcoming Embedded Linux Conference Europe, which will take place early October in Dublin, Ireland.

Upcoming public training sessions

In addition to offer our training courses on-site everywhere in the world (we recently delivered training in the United States, Israel, India and Mexico!), we also offer public training sessions opened to individuals. Our next public training sessions are:

Embedded Linux training
October 12-16, in Avignon (France), in English
November 23-27, in Toulouse (France), in French
Embedded Linux kernel and driver development training
July 20-24, in Avignon (France), in English
November 16-20, in Toulouse (France), in French
Embedded Linux development with Buildroot training
November 30-December 2, in Toulouse (France), in English
Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded development training
October 13-15, in Toulouse (France), in English
Android system development training
December 7-10, in Toulouse (France), in English

Recruiting

At Bootlin, we are starting to get more and more requests for very cool projects. As it can be very frustrating to turn down very interesting opportunities, we have decided to look for new engineers to join our technical team.

Therefore, if you are a junior engineer showing a real interest in embedded Linux and open-source projects, or an experienced engineer with existing visible contributions and embedded Linux knowledge, do not hesitate to contact us.

See more details about our job openings.

Embedded Linux and kernel job openings for 2015

At Bootlin, we are starting to get more and more requests for very cool projects. As it can be very frustrating to turn down very interesting opportunities (such as projects that allow us to contribute to the Linux kernel, Buildroot or Yocto Projects), we have decided to look for new engineers to join our technical team.

Job description in a nutshell

  • Technical aspects: mainline Linux kernel development, Linux BSP and embedded Linux system integration, technical training
  • Location: working in one of our offices in France (Toulouse or Orange)
  • Contract: full-time, permanent French contract

Mainline Linux kernel development

Believe it or not, we now have an increasing number of customers contracting us to support their hardware in the mainline Linux kernel. They are either System on Chip manufacturers or systems makers, who now understand the strong advantages brought by mainline Linux kernel support to their customers and to themselves.

You can see the results: Bootlin is now consistently in the top 20 companies contributing to the Linux kernel. We are even number 6 for Linux 4.0!

Note that this job doesn’t only require technical skills. It also has a strong social dimension, having to go through multiple iterations with the community and with kernel subsystem maintainers to get your code accepted upstream.

Linux BSP and embedded Linux system integration

Such activity involves developing and integrating everything that’s needed to deploy Linux on the customer hardware: bootloader, kernel, build environment (such as Buildroot or the Yocto project), upgrade system, optimizing performance (such as boot time) and fixing issues. Another way is to provide guidance and support to customer learning to do such a job.

As opposed to Linux kernel development projects which are often long term ones (though with step by step objectives which can be reached in days), these are usually shorter and more challenging projects. They allow us to stay in touch with the real-life challenges that customer engineers face every day, and that require to achieve substantial results in a relatively small number of days.

Such projects also constitute opportunities to contribute improvements to the mainline kernel and bootloader projects, as well to the build system projects themselves (Buildroot, Yocto Project, OpenWRT…).

Training and sharing experience

Knowledge sharing is an important part of Bootlin mission and activity. Hence, after gaining sufficient on-the-job experience, another important aspect of the job is teaching, maintaining and improving Bootlin training courses.

You will also be strongly incited to share your technical experience by writing blog posts or kernel documentation, and by proposing talks at international conferences, especially the Embedded Linux Conference (USA, Europe).

Profile

  • Experience: we are open to both experienced engineers and people just out of engineering schools. Though prior experience with the technical topics will be an advantage, we are also interested in young engineers demonstrating great potential for learning, coding and knowledge sharing. People having made visible contributions in these areas will have an advantage too.
  • Language skills: fluency in oral and written English is very important. French speaking skills won’t be a requirement, but an advantage too.
  • Traveling: for training sessions and conference participation, you will need the ability to travel rather frequently, up to 8-10 times a year.
  • Ability to relocate, to one of our offices in France, either in Toulouse or in Orange, to strengthen our engineering teams here.

Details about Toulouse and Orange

  • Toulouse is a dynamic city with lots of high-tech and embedded systems companies in particular. Our office in Colomiers can easily be reached by train from downtown Toulouse if you wish to settle there. You would be working with Boris Brezillon, Antoine Ténart, Maxime Ripard and our CTO Thomas Petazzoni.
  • Our main office is settled in Orange in the heart of the Provence region, close to Avignon, a smaller but dynamic city too. It enjoys a sunny climate and the proximity of the Alps and the Mediterranean sea. Accommodation is very affordable and there are no traffic issues! You would be working with our founder Michael Opdenacker and of course remotely with the rest of the engineering team. In particular, we are interested in foreign engineers who could help us develop our services in their home countries.

We prefer not to offer home based positions for the moment, which have their own complexity and cost, while we have plenty of space left in our current offices.

See a full description and details about how to contact us.