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.

2015 Q1 newsletter

The Bootlin team wishes you a Happy New Year for 2015, with plenty of optimism and energy!

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

Kernel contributions

We continue to work significantly on support for various ARM processors in the Linux kernel. Our contributions to the latest kernel releases:

  • 147 patches from Bootlin merged in Linux 3.17, making Bootlin the 14th contributing company for this release by number of patches. See our blog post about this release.
  • 155 patches from Bootlin merged in Linux 3.18, making Bootlin the 14th contributing company. See our blog post for more details.
  • For the upcoming 3.19 release, we already have 196 patches merged.

One of the highlights was that we added support for the Atmel SAMA5D4 SoC to the Linux kernel even before the new chip was announced by Atmel! That’s a very positive sign for customers when an SoC is supported in the mainline Linux kernel sources right at product launch, instead of having to wait for months or years before the community developers can catch up.

Note that we also added Atmel SAMA5D3 SoC support to Xenomai, a hard real-time extension for the Linux kernel. Thanks to this, the Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained board can now run with the 2.6.x release of Xenomai.

Besides those highlights, most of our kernel contributions were as usual centered around support for specific families of ARM processors: CPUs from Marvell EBU and Marvell Berlin, from Atmel and from Allwinner. We added a new network driver for some Marvell EBU processors, added SMP support for Marvell Berlin processors, added a DMA controller driver for Allwinner processors, and did a lot of maintenance work to support these processors in the mainline kernel.

Buildroot contributions

Our involvement into the Buildroot project, a popular embedded Linux build system, is going on. Our engineer Thomas Petazzoni contributed 136 patches to the 2014.11 release, making him the second contributor by number of patches. Thomas is also taking care of the maintenance of the project on a more regular basis, reviewing and merging patches from contributors.

OpenWRT contributions

We have recently started contributing to the OpenWRT project: improve the kernel support to use defconfig, introduce a notion of board to support different NAND configurations for each platform. We will soon to be pushing support for the Marvell Armada 385 platform, and improved support for the Marvell Armada 370 and XP platforms.

Recent projects

Besides our publicly visible kernel contributions, we do also work on customer-specific projects. Among the latest projects we have done:

  • Develop a complete Board Support Package for a custom TI AM335x based platform: U-Boot porting, Linux kernel porting, and development of a Yocto-generated system. Qt5 and OpenGL are used for the graphical application, a fairly complex audio setup had to be supported, and many traditional interfaces as well (USB Host and Device, CAN, display, etc.)
  • Develop a Board Support Package for a custom Marvell Armada 375 based platform for a telephony system. Not only did we port a Linux kernel on this platform, but we also wrote several DAHDI drivers to interface the telephony hardware of the platform with Asterisk.
  • NAND and UBI stress-testing for a customer-specific Freescale i.MX28 based platform. We improved the NAND controller driver, added a new MTD tool to generate bitflips, and did some long term power-cut stress-testing of the UBIFS setup to ensure the reliability of the platform. See our kernel driver improvements and the new nandflipbits tool.
  • Adapt an existing ADC driver for a customer-specific platform to the modern Industrial Input Output (IIO) subsystem of the kernel.

Conferences: FOSDEM, Embedded World and Embedded Linux Conference

Several Bootlin engineers will participate to the FOSDEM conference, taking place on January 30 and February 1 in Brussels. In addition, Thomas Petazzoni will be participating to the Buildroot Developers Meeting that takes place right after FOSDEM in the Google offices in Brussels.

Bootlin will participate to the Embedded World trade show on February 24-26 in Nuremberg, Germany. We will be present at Atmel’s booth and visiting exhibitor booths too. For people in Europe, this will be a good opportunity to ask your questions about our embedded Linux training and engineering services. In particular, you will be able meet our engineers Alexandre Belloni, Thomas Petazzoni (CTO), Michael Opdenacker (CEO) and Anja Roubin as well, the new person in charge of our training services.

This year again, most of the Bootlin engineering team (7 engineers) will participate to the 2015 edition of the Embedded Linux Conference on March 23-25 in San Jose, California. We submitted several talk proposals, but our presence won’t depend on the number of talks that are eventually accepted. Participating to this conference, and to its European edition in the fall too, is very important for us to make sure we do not miss any of the interesting developments in the technical community, and above all to strengthen our ties with the community developers. This helps us to be good technical trainers with valuable experience and information to share. The strong relationships with other community developers (and in particular with project maintainers) also help us when our customers contract us to add hardware support or features to official versions of community projects such as the Linux kernel.

Free technical documentation resources

Since the latest edition of this newsletter, we started running our new Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded course, and we released all training materials for this course. As usual, such materials are meant to be used by people learning by themselves too. All you have to do is get your hands on a Beaglebone Black board, read the slides and try to do the labs!

Our engineer Maxime Ripard also contributed documentation about the DMAEngine subsystem in the Linux kernel.

Upcoming training sessions – Now in Paris too!

The news is that we will run new public sessions in Paris, in addition to the ones we usually organize in Toulouse, Avignon and Lyon in France. We are starting with our embedded Linux and our Yocto courses, but other topics will follow too.

So, here are our next session dates:

See sessions and dates for more details. Of course, we can also deliver our training courses at your location, anywhere in the world. Feel free to contact us for a quote.

If you are interested in more frequent news about Bootlin, you can follow us on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

2014 Q3 newsletter

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

Kernel contributions

Since our last newsletter, our engineering team continued to make significant contributions to the Linux kernel, especially in the area of supporting ARM processors and platforms:

  • 218 patches from Bootlin were merged into Linux 3.15, making Bootlin the 12th contributing company for this release by number of patches. See our blog post.
  • 388 patches from Bootlin were merged into Linux 3.16, making Bootlin the 7th contributing company for this release, by number of patches. See our blog post.
  • For the upcoming 3.17 release, we already have 146 patches merged, and we have a lot more work being done for future kernel releases.

The major areas of our contributions were:

  • The addition of an ubiblk driver, which allows traditional block filesystems to be used on top of UBI devices, and therefore on NAND flash storage. Only read-only support is available, but it already allows to make use of the super efficient SquashFS filesystem on top of NAND flash in a safe way.
  • Another major addition is support for the new Marvell Armada 375 and Armada 38x processors. In just two releases (3.15 and 3.16) we almost pushed entire support for these new processors. The network driver for Armada 375 is one missing piece, coming in 3.17.
  • Our maintenance work on the Atmel AT91 and SAMA5 processors has continued, with more conversion to the Device Tree, the common clock framework, and other modern kernel mechanisms. We have also developed the DRM/KMS (graphics) driver for the SAMA5D3 SoC, which has already been posted and should hopefully be merged soon.
  • Our work to support the Marvell Berlin processor has started to be merged in 3.16. This processor is used in various TVs, set-top boxes or devices like the Google Chromecast. Basic support was merged including Device Trees, clock drivers, pin-muxing driver, GPIO and SDHCI support. AHCI support will be in 3.17, and USB and network support should be in 3.18.
  • Additional work was done on support for Allwinner ARM SoCs, especially the A31 processor: SPI and I2C support, drivers for the P2WI bus and the PRCM controller, and support for USB.

We now have broad experience in writing kernel drivers and getting code merged into the mainline tree. Do not hesitate to contact us if you need help to develop Linux kernel drivers, or to support a new board or processor.

Buildroot contributions

Our involvement into the Buildroot project, a popular embedded Linux build system, is going on. We have merged 159 patches in the 2014.05 release of the project (total of 1293 patches), and 129 patches in the 2014.08 release of the project (total of 1353 patches). Moreover, our engineer Thomas Petazzoni is regularly an interim maintainer of the project, when the official maintainer Peter Korsgaard is not available. Some of the major features we contributed: major improvements to Python 3 support, addition of EFI bootloaders, addition of support for the Musl C library.

Regular embedded Linux projects

Of course, we also conducted embedded Linux development and boot time optimization projects for various embedded system makers, with less visible impact on community projects. However, we will try to share generic technical experience from such projects through future blog posts.

New training course: Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded

A large number of embedded Linux projects use embedded Linux build systems to integrate the various software components of the system into a working root filesystem image. Among the solutions available to achieve this, the Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded are very popular.

We have therefore launched a new 3 day Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded training course to help engineers and companies who are using, or are interested in using these solutions for their embedded Linux projects. Starting from the basics of understanding the core principles of Yocto, the training course goes into the details of writing package recipes, integrating support for a board into Yocto, creating custom images, and more.

The detailed agenda of the training course is available. You can order this training course at your location, or participate to the first public session organized on November 18-20 in France.

Embedded Linux training course updated

The embedded Linux ecosystem is evolving very quickly, and therefore we are continuously updating our training courses to match the latest developments. As part of this effort, we have recently conducted a major update to our Embedded Linux course: the hardware platform used for the practical labs has been changed to the popular and very interesting Atmel Xplained SAMA5D3, and many practical labs have been improved to provide a more useful learning experience. See our blog post for more details.

Mailing list for training participants

We have launched a new service for the participants to our training sessions: a mailing list dedicated to them, and through which they can ask additional questions after the course, share their experience, get in touch with other training participants and Bootlin engineers. Of course, all Bootlin engineers are on the mailing list and participate to the discussions. Another useful service offered by our training courses!

This resource is no longer available, but participants to our training sessions are still welcome to contact us by e-mail.

Conferences: ELC, ELCE, Kernel Recipes

The Bootlin engineering team will participate to the Embedded Linux Conference Europe and Linux Plumbers, next month in Düsseldorf, Germany. Several Bootlin engineers will also be giving talks during ELCE:

In addition, Thomas will participate to the Buildroot Developers Day, taking place right before the Embedded Linux Conference Europe in Düsseldorf.

See also our blog post about ELCE for more details.

Maxime Ripard and Michael Opdenacker will participate to the Kernel Recipes 2014 conference, on September 25-26 in Paris. Maxime will be giving his Allwinner kernel talk at this conference. See our blog post for more details.

Last but not least, we have recently published the videos of a number of talks from the previous Embedded Linux Conference, held earlier this year in San Jose. A lot of interesting material about embedded Linux! Check out our blog post for more details.

Upcoming training sessions

We have a number of public training sessions dates, with seats available:

Sessions and dates

Embedded Linux course in Madrid – July 7-11

We are happy to announce a new Embedded Linux training course on July 7-11, in Madrid, Spain.

IGEPv2 boardIt is organized by our partners ISEE (the makers of the IGEPv2 board that we are using in this course), and Silica, a well known component is distributor who is welcoming the session in its offices in Madrid.

The course will be instructed in English by our trainer Marcin Bis. Marcin Bis

The registrations are directly handled by ISEE. See details.

2014 Q2 newsletter

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

Bootlin at Embedded World 2014, Nuremberg, Germany

Embedded World 2014, Germany

Embedded World is the world’s largest trade show about embedded systems. In 2013, it attracted around 900 exhibitors, over 22,000 visitors and almost 1,500 congress participants.

This year, Bootlin will be represented by our CEO Michael Opdenacker. This should be a great opportunity for us to understand our customers better, by meeting embedded system makers, by seeing what their needs are and what technologies they use. It will also be an opportunity to meet well known members of the technical community. In particular, here are a few well know people who are going to speak at the congress:

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are attending this event too and are interested in knowing Bootlin better, for business, partnership or even career opportunities!