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 name 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.

Free Electrons opens a new office in Lyon, France

After Toulouse and Orange, Lyon is the third city chosen for opening a Free Electrons office. Since September 1st of this year (2017), Alexandre Belloni and Grégory Clement have been working more precisely in Oullins close to the subway and the train station. It is the first step to make the Lyon team grow, with the opportunity to welcome interns and engineers.


Their new desks are already crowded by many boards running our favorite system.

A Kickstarter for a low cost Marvell ARM64 board

At the beginning of October a Kickstarter campaign was launched to fund the development of a low-cost board based on one of the latest Marvell ARM 64-bit SoC: the Armada 3700. While being under $50, the board would allow using most of the Armada 3700 features:

  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • SATA
  • USB 3.0
  • miniPCIe

ESPRESSObin interfaces

The Kickstarter campaign was started by Globalscale Technologies, who has already produced numerous Marvell boards in the past: the Armada 370 based Mirabox, the Kirkwood based SheevaPlug, DreamPlug and more.

We pushed the initial support of this SoC to the mainline Linux kernel 6 months ago, and it landed in Linux 4.6. There are still a number of hardware features that are not yet supported in the mainline kernel, but we are actively working on it. As an example, support for the PCIe controller was merged in Linux 4.8, released last Sunday. According to the Kickstarter page the first boards would be delivered in January 2017 and by this time we hope to have managed to push more support for this SoC to the mainline Linux kernel.

We have been working on the mainline support of the Marvell SoC for 4 years and we are glad to see at last the first board under $50 using this SoC. We hope it will help expanding the open source community around this SoC family and will bring more contributions to the Marvell EBU SoCs.

Yocto project and OpenEmbedded training updated to Krogoth

yocto

Continuing our efforts to keep our training materials up-to-date we just refreshed our Yocto project and OpenEmbedded training course to the latest Yocto project release, Krogoth (2.1.1). In addition to adapting our training labs to the Krogoth release, we improved our training materials to cover more aspects and new features.

The most important changes are:

  • New chapter about devtool, the new utility from the Yocto project to improve the developers’ workflow to integrate a package into the build system or to make patches to existing packages.
  • Improve the distro layers slides to add configuration samples and give advice on how to use these layers.
  • Add a part about quilt to easily patch already supported packages.
  • Explain in depth how file inclusions are handled by BitBake.
  • Improve the description about tasks by adding slides on how to write them in Python.

The updated training materials are available on our training page: agenda (PDF), slides (PDF) and labs (PDF).

Join our Yocto specialist Alexandre Belloni for the first public session of this improved training in Lyon (France) on October 19-21. We are also available to deliver this training worldwide at your site, contact us!

Free Electrons contributes to KernelCI.org

The Linux kernel is well-known for its ability to run on thousands of different hardware platforms. However, it is obviously impossible for the kernel developers to test their changes on all those platforms to check that no regressions are introduced. To address this problem, the KernelCI.org project was started: it tests the latest versions of the Linux kernel from various branches on a large number of hardware plaforms and provides a centralized interface to browse the results.

KernelCI.org project
KernelCI.org project

From a physical point of view, KernelCI.org relies on labs containing a number of hardware platforms that can be remotely controlled. Those labs are provided by various organizations or individuals. When a commit in one of the Linux kernel Git branches monitored by KernelCI is detected, numerous kernel configurations are built, tests are sent to all labs and results are collected on the KernelCI.org website. This allows kernel developers and maintainers to detect and fix bugs and regressions before they reach users. As of May, 10th 2016, KernelCI stats show a pool of 185 different boards and around 1900 daily boots.

Free Electrons is a significant contributor to the Linux kernel, especially in the area of ARM hardware platform support. Several of our engineers are maintainers or co-maintainers of ARM platforms (Grégory Clement for Marvell EBU, Maxime Ripard for Allwinner, Alexandre Belloni for Atmel and Antoine Ténart for Annapurna Labs). Therefore, we have a specific interest in participating to an initiative like KernelCI, to make sure that the platforms that we maintain continue to work well, and a number of the platforms we care about were not tested by the KernelCI project.

Over the last few months, we have been building our boards lab in our offices, and we have joined the KernelCI project since April 25th. Our lab currently consists of 15 boards:

  • Atmel SAMA5D2 Xplained
  • Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained
  • Atmel AT91SAM9X25EK
  • Atmel AT91SAM9X35EK
  • Atmel AT91SAMA5D36EK
  • Atmel AT91SAM9M10G45EK
  • Atmel AT91SAM9261EK
  • BeagleBone Black
  • Beagleboard-xM
  • Marvell Armada XP based Plathome Openblocks AX3
  • Marvell Armada 38x Solidrun ClearFog,
  • Marvell Armada 38x DB-88F6820-GP
  • Allwinner A13 Nextthing Co. C.H.I.P
  • Allwinner A33 Sinlinx SinA33
  • Freescale i.MX6 Boundary Devices Nitrogen6x

We will very soon be adding 4 more boards:

  • Atmel SAMA5D4 Xplained
  • Atmel SAMA5D34EK
  • Marvell Armada 7K 7040-DB (ARM64)
  • Marvell Armada 39x DB

Free Electrons board farm

Three of the boards we have were already tested thanks to other KernelCI labs, but the other sixteen boards were not tested at all. In total, we plan to have about 50 boards in our lab, mainly for the ARM platforms that we maintain in the official Linux kernel. The results of all boots we performed are visible on the KernelCI site. We are proud to be part of this unique effort to perform automated testing and validation of the Linux kernel!

In the coming weeks, we will publish additional articles to present the software and physical architecture of our lab and the program we developed to remotely control boards that are in our lab, so stay tuned!

2016 Q1 newsletter

Newsletter iconThis article was published on our quarterly newsletter.

The Free Electrons team wishes you a Happy New Year for 2016, with many new bits to enjoy in your life!

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

Free Electrons work on the $9 computer

As announced in our previous newsletter, Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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.

2015 Q2 newsletter

This article was published on our quarterly newsletter.

Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons, 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.

Free Electrons at the Embedded Linux Conference Europe

DüsseldorfThe Embedded Linux Conference Europe will take place on October 13-15 in Düsseldorf, Germany. As usual, a large part of the Free Electrons engineering team will participate to the conference, with no less than 7 engineers: Alexandre Belloni, Boris Brezillon, Grégory Clement, Michael Opdenacker, Thomas Petazzoni, Maxime Ripard and Antoine Ténart.

Several of our talk proposals have been accepted, so we’ll be presenting about the following topics:

In addition to this participation to the Embedded Linux Conference Europe:

  • Many of us will also participate to the Linux Plumbers conference, on October 15-17. It’s another great opportunity to talk about topics around real-time, power management, storage, multimedia, and more.
  • Thomas Petazzoni will participate to the next Buildroot Developers Meeting.

As usual, we’re looking forward to this event! Do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you’re interested in meeting us during these events for specific discussions.

2014 Q2 newsletter

This article was published on our quarterly newsletter.

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

Free Electrons welcomes Boris Brezillon and Antoine Ténart

Boris Brezillon
Antoine Ténart

We are happy to announce that our engineering team has recently welcomed two new embedded Linux engineers: Boris Brezillon and Antoine Ténart. Boris and Antoine will both be working from the Toulouse office of the company, together with Maxime Ripard and Thomas Petazzoni. They will be helping Free Electrons to address the increasing demand for its development and training services.

Antoine started his professional experience with Embedded Linux and Android in 2011. Before joining Free Electrons in 2014, he started with low level Android system development at Archos (France), and worked on Embedded Linux and Android projects at Adeneo Embedded (France). He joined Free Electrons early March, and has already been involved in kernel contributions on the Marvell Berlin processors and the Atmel AT91 processors, and is also working on our upcoming Yocto training course.

Boris joined Free Electrons on April, 1st, and brings a significant embedded Linux experience that he gained while working on home automation devices at Overkiz (France). He was maintaining a custom distribution built with the Yocto. Boris also has already contributed many patches to the mainline Linux kernel sources, in particular for the Atmel AT91 ARM SoCs. Boris is also developing the NAND controller driver for the Allwinner ARM processors and has proposed improvements to the core Linux MTD subsystem (see this thread and this other thread).