ELC 2009 videos

My Colleague Thomas and I had the privilege to participate to the 2009 edition of the Embedded Linux Conference, which took place in San Francisco, on April 6-8. In spite of the weak economy, this event was once again a success. It attracted major developers from the embedded Linux community, as well as participants from all over the word.

Following the tradition, we are proud to release new videos about this event. These videos were shot by Satoru Ueda and Tim Bird (Sony), and by Thomas Petazzoni and Michael Opdenacker (Bootlin). For the first time, we used an HD camcorder to shoot some of the videos. A higher resolution allows to read the slides projected on the screen. As usual, the videos are released with a Creative Commons Attribution – ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Thomas and I found the following talks particularly interesting:

  • Ubiquitous Linux, by Dirk Hohndel
  • Embedded Linux and Mainline Kernel, by David Woodhouse
  • What are Interrupt Threads and How Do They Work?, by Reece Pollack
  • Visualizing Process Memory, by Matt Mackall
  • KProbes and Systemtap Status, by Tim Bird
  • Deploying LTTng on Exotic Embedded Architectures, by Mathieu Desnoyers
  • Embedded Linux on FPGAs for fun and profit, by Dr John Williams (Petalogix)
  • Linux on Embedded PowerPC porting guide, by Grant Likely
  • Understanding and writing an LLVM Compiler Backend, by Bruno Cardoso Lopes

You may be interested in watching the presentations we made and the BOFs we led:

  • Building Embedded Linux Systems with Buildroot, by Thomas Petazzoni. In these last months, Thomas has made big contributions to this build system.
  • Build tools BOF, by Thomas Petazzoni
  • Update on filesystems for flash storage, by Michael Opdenacker
  • System Size BOF, by Michael Opdenacker

Of course, lots of other talks were very interesting. See the whole list by yourself:

Linux 2.6.30 – New features for embedded systems

Interesting features in Linux 2.6.30 for embedded system developers

Linux 2.6.30 has been released almost 1 month ago and it’s high time to write a little about it. Like every new kernel release, it contains interesting features for embedded system developers.

The first feature that stands out is support for fastboot. Today, most devices are initialized in a sequential way. As scanning and probing the hardware often requires waiting for the devices to be ready, a significant amount of cpu time is wasted in delay loops. The fastboot infrastructure allows to run device initialization routines in parallel, keeping the cpu fully busy and thus reducing boot time in a significant way. Fasboot can be enabled by passing the fastboot parameter in the kernel command line. However, unless your embedded system uses PC hardware, don’t be surprised if you don’t get any boot time reduction yet. If you look at the code, you will see that the async_schedule function is only used by 4 drivers so far, mainly for disk drives. You can see that board support code and most drivers still need to be converted to this new infrastructure. Let’s hope this will progress in future kernel releases, bringing significant boot time savings to everyone.

Tomoyo LinuxLinux 2.6.30 also features the inclusion of Tomoyo Linux, a lightweight Mandatory Access Control system developed by NTT. According to presentations I saw quite a long time ago, Tomoyo can be used as an alternative to SELinux, and it just consumes a very reasonable amount of RAM and storage space. It should interest people making embedded devices which are always connected to the network, and need strong security.

Another nice feature is support for kernel images compressed with bzip2 and lzma, and not just with zlib as it’s been the case of ages. The bzip2 and lzma compressors allow to reduce the size of a compressed kernel in a significant way. This should appeal to everyone interested in saving a few hundreds of kilobytes of storage space. Just beware that decompressing these formats requires more CPU resources, so there may be a price to pay in terms of boot time if you have a slow cpu, like in many embedded systems. On the other hand, if you have a fast cpu and rather slow I/O, like in a PC, you may also see a reduction in boot time. In this case, you would mainly save I/O time copying a smaller kernel to RAM, and with a fast cpu, the extra decompression cost wouldn’t be too high.

However, if you take a closer look at this new feature, you will find that it is only supported on x86 and blackfin. Alain Knaff, the author of the original patches, did summit a patch for the arm architecture, but it didn’t make it this time. Upon my request, Alain posted an update to this arm patch. Unfortunately, decompressing the kernel no longer works after applying this patch. There seems to be something wrong with the decompression code… Stay tuned on the LKML to follow up this issue. Note that the blackfin maintainers took another approach, apparently. They didn’t include any decompression code on this architecture. Instead, they relied on the bootloader to take care of decompression. While this is simpler, at least from the kernel code point of view, this is not a satisfactory solution. It would be best if the arm kernel bootstrap code took care of this task, which would then work with any board and any bootloader.

Another interesting feature is the inclusion of the Microblaze architecture, a soft core cpu on Xilinx FPGAs. This MMU-less core has been supported for quite a long time by uClinux, and it’s good news that it is now supported in the mainline kernel. This guarantees that this cpu will indeed be maintained for a long time, and could thus be a good choice in your designs.

Other noteworthy features are support for threaded interrupt handlers (which shows that work to merge the real-time preempt patches is progressing), ftrace support in 32 and 64 bit powerpc, new tracers, and of course, several new embedded boards and many new device drivers.

As usual, full details can be found on the Linux Kernel Newbies website.

The Bifferboard: tiny, low power embedded x86 board

A nice, cheap and tiny x86 embedded board that runs Linux and just consumes 1W. It has all the basic connectivity you need in an embedded system.

As you may already know, we maintain a list of attractive and Linux friendly embedded boards. Whenever we find a new board that is attractive and meets our strict criteria (supporting Linux or other free kernels, public pricelist, public documentation and website with an English version), we add this board to our list. This way, we don’t forget about any useful board, and we can offer useful guidance to our customers and to any embedded system developer looking for a suitable hardware platform.

Somebody at Bifferos.com has just contacted us to let us know about their Bifferboard product. Here are its announced features:

  • Bifferboard150MHz RDC CPU, Intel 486SX compatible
  • 1 watt power consumption (200mA @5v)
  • 68mm x 28mm x 19mm
  • 32MB SDRAM/1MB Flash
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • Serial console 115200 baud
  • 4-pin JTAG (can be used as GPIO)
  • 2 GPIO (1 LED, 1 button)
  • Linux + OpenWrt
  • 29 UK pounds

The board has two components: the CPU board, and the I/O one, offering Ethernet and USB host connectivity. For a serial port, you can order a special cable from their shop, which connects to a USB port on your workstation.

Thanks to its low power consumption, the Bifferboard can even be powered by USB. According to its makers, the board can do anything a NSLU2 device can do. It is just cheaper (approximately 33 EUR at the time of this writing).

Last but not least, most Bifferboard hardware can be emulated with QEMU.

While it could also be suitable for mass production projects, it can be at least a nice platform for prototypes, hobby, research and educational projects.

Of course, if you know about other attractive boards that we could add to our list, please post a comment or send us e-mail.

ELC Europe in Grenoble


Just a quick note after the announcement that has just been made at the Embedded Linux Conference (ELC) in San Francisco…

Tim Bird has just announced that the next European edition of ELC will be in Grenoble, France, on October 15-16. As the new conference home page says, it will be colocated with ESWEEK.

We are very excited about this news, as Grenoble is a not only a beautiful place, but also a very dynamic city full of universities and high-tech companies. We will do our best to incite people to attend the conference, and of course to speak about their projects and propose demos.

Bootlin at ELC

My colleague Thomas Petazzoni and I will participate to the Embedded Linux Conference on April 6-8 in San Francisco.

This is an exciting conference with a very interesting program, and we are proud to be part of it:Golden Gate Bridge

If participate to this conference too, and if you are interested in the above topics, or in topics we covered in this blog, don’t hesitate to come and chat with us. We will both arrive on Saturday afternoon, so we could even meet before the conference starts.

If you can’t make it to this conference, we will also shoot and share videos as usual, so at least you won’t miss the technical contents. You will just miss the beer together…

FOSDEM 2009 videos

As previously announced, I had the chance to attend the FOSDEM conference again this year. And once again, the famous Bootlin video camera was with me, and I could record a few talks. I’m pleased to make them available today.

FOSDEM, the Free and Open Source Software Developers' European Meeting

Here are the available videos, with my personal comments. Of course, except the talk about CMake, all of them come from the embedded devroom. Thanks to the speakers for sharing their knowledge and presenting their projects !

  • video captureWt, a C++ web toolkit, for rich web interfaces to embedded systems, by Pieter Libin (Noesis Solutions)
    Video (44 minutes, 124M)
    Presentation of a Web application generator, which generates a Web application including a web server from a C++ description. The C++ design is based on many ideas coming from Qt, which eases the creation of the graphical application. Certainly a very interesting tool for embedded systems.
  • Hacking with modular hardware: the BUG, by Ken Gilmer (Bug Labs)
    Video (43 minutes, 129M)
    The BUG is a set of hardware modules that can be combined together. A base module contains the CPU, memory and other basic components, while additional modules can provide GPS, Wifi, webcam, I/O lines and many others. Of course, it comes with a completely free software SDK. Can be an interesting starting point for prototyping or hobbyist embedded hacking, even though the hardware is quite expensive.
  • Building Embedded Linux Systems with PTXdist, by Robert Schwebel (Pengutronix)
    Video (68 minutes, 151M)
    A very good presentation on why system building tools are needed for Embedded Linux systems (cross-compiling issues, etc.), and how PTXdist fits this need. Even though I’m personally quite fan of Buildroot, PTXdist’s competitor, the presentation was very interesting.
  • video captureDevelopment on the OpenMoko with hackable:1, by Pierre Pronchery (Bearstech)
    Video (55 minutes, 189M)
    A hands-on lab on the OpenMoko, which unfortunately was too short to be really interesting, and restricted to only the 10-12 people at the front of the room. Interesting for the people who did it, probably not so interesting to watch afterwards.
  • Development and Certification of Linux-Based Fire Safety & Security Systems, by Baurzhan Ismagulov (Siemens)
    Video (47 minutes, 124M)
    The topic of the talk was really appealing, because the use of free software in environments where human life is in danger has always caused many debates and discussions. Unfortunately, the talk completely misses the point : the speaker spent the whole talk discussing Germany-specific rules and laws for the certification of fire safety and security systems, almost without saying a word on how Linux can match these rules.
  • Maemo on BeagleBoard, by Juha Kallionen (Nokia)
    Video (20 minutes, 51M)
    Good talk, but not a lot of content, outside of « Hey, we run Maemo on BeagleBoard, try it !». A kind of announcement talk, I would say.
  • video captureAdvanced power management for OMAP3, by Peter De Schrijver (Nokia)
    Video (49 minutes, 169M)
    A very interesting, in-depth, technical talk about the power management features of the OMAP3 CPU and how these features can be used by the Linux kernel.
  • Emdebian 1.0 release – small and super small Debian, by Neil Williams (Debian)
    Video (86 minutes, 257M)
    video captureAgain, another interesting talk about the status of Emdebian, which has just reached 1.0. Neil described both Emdebian Crush and Emdebian Grip, that are two different approaches for making Debian more suitable for embedded systems. Very good progress has been made, and Emdebian is certainly something that should now be considered as a distribution for embedded systems.
  • CMake – what can it do for your project, by Alexander Neundorf
    Video (45 minutes, 167M)
    A general introduction to CMake, with lots of examples and demonstrations. Very nice for those who never had the opportunity to look at CMake.

Public session changes

New agenda, sessions in Grenoble, and walking away with an embedded board

Did you notice? We’ve made significant changes to our next public training sessions.

First of all, partnering with CALAO Systems, we are opening new public sessions in Grenoble.

In the upcoming sessions, we also offer a new training agenda, covering embedded Linux system development in full detail. Until recently, our public trainings dedicated approximately 3 days to kernel integration and device driver development, and only 2 days to real-time and to developing the system itself. The new sessions will still cover kernel configuration, (cross)compiling and usage, but will leave Linux kernel and driver development to dedicated sessions.

The new training sessions will thus cover the below topics:

  • Introduction to embedded Linux
  • Bootloaders
  • Configuring, (cross)compiling and booting a Linux kernel
  • Block filesystems
  • Flash filesystems – Manipulating flash partitions
  • C library and cross-compiling toolchains
  • Embedded system development tools
  • BusyBox and other lightweight tools for embedded systems. Graphical toolkits
  • Debugging and profiling tools
  • Implementing realtime requirements
  • Udev and hotplugging
  • System optimizations
  • Practical lab: implementing a multimedia system

For the first time too, each participant will walk away with an embedded board from CALAO systems. After the training sessions, you will then be able to go on practicing with the new technologies that you discovered, and to build your own system prototypes.

You will find more details in the description of our public training sessions.

If there is enough demand, we will propose other public sessions in September 2009, this time on Linux kernel and device driver development. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in such a session. We could even make it earlier if enough people are interested.

Real hardware in our training sessions

At last, real hardware in our training sessions

If you haven’t had a look at our new training agendas, you may not have noticed that we now use real hardware in our embedded Linux and kernel training sessions. For 4 years, we had been using the QEMU emulator on the x86, arm and mips platforms. While this simplified training session logistics, and avoided any trouble due to hardware failures, this was not close enough to the real world situations that our customers face.

We chose the nifty boards from Calao Systems. They have great features that make them very attractive for training and prototyping purposes

  • AT91SAM9263 ARM CPU from ATMEL, running at 200 MHz
  • 64 MB of RAM and 256 MB of flash, which are more than enough for any embedded system we can think of.
  • Small and light (30 g), with a USB connector replacing power, serial and JTAG connectors, making it easy to travel with several of these devices without having to carry many heavy accessories. Carrying convenience was a key decision factor.
  • 100 Mbit Ethernet port, allowing to practice with root filesystems on NFS, and with tftp from the U-boot command line.
  • CALAO USB 92632 USB 2.0 host ports, allowing to connect any type of device. In particular, we are thinking about USB mass storage and webcam devices.
  • 1 USB device port, allowing to experiment with Linux USB gadget drivers.
  • Very affordable price (less than 160 €).

On the software side, this board is also very attractive:

  • It is supported by the mainline Linux kernel, since version 2.6.27.
  • A bricked board can be reflashed without ever needing to use Windows, thanks the Linux version of Atmel’s SAM-BA utility.
  • It will soon be supported by the mainline version of U-boot. We are contributing to this.
  • It should also be directly supported in the mainline version of Buildroot in the next months, making it easy to build complete root filesystems for it. We will also work on this.

We will also soon offer training cost options that include these boards. This way, customers can walk away with their own device and easily continue to practice with the training hardware and make prototypes, without having to go through an extra purchasing process.

Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2008 videos

Together with the announcement of our free mainlining offer in our Linux kernel and bsp development services, we are pleased to announce the availability of new conference videos.

The CELF Embedded Linux Conference Europe (ELCE) and the NLUUG Autumn Conference on Mobile Computing took place last November in Ede, in the Netherlands.

For those who don’t know them yet, the Embedded Linux Conference (ELC) and ELCE are in our opinion the most interesting conferences for embedded Linux system developers. They cover only interesting topics, such as power management, boot time, flash storage, security, graphics, mobile applications and many more.

This time, four people shot videos: Ruud Derwig (NXP), Tim Bird (Sony), Thomas Petazzoni and Michael Opdenacker (both from Bootlin). Then, Thomas took care of reading the tapes and DVDs, and encoding them to Ogg/Theora, all this in just a few minutes of manual intervention, thanks to his super automated scripts.

Here are all the videos:

Speakers were supposed to post their slides on the CELF Wiki, but some of them haven’t done it yet.

If you don’t know which video to start with, here are the talks that Thomas Petazzoni and I preferred:

Of course, these are just our personal recommendations, from the talks we managed to attend. We are sure that many other ones are worth recommending.

Kernel and BSP development and mainlining

Offering free mainlining for Linux kernel, device driver and BSP development

Note: Due to the number of requests we get for mainlining work, we can no longer continue the offer described below.

Bootlin is best known worldwide for its kernel and embedded Linux system training sessions and its free training materials, and also perhaps for sharing videos from technical conferences.

However, did you know that Bootlin is not a training company?

We are actually embedded Linux system and kernel developers like the people we support, train and work for. This is essential to be good trainers, in addition to our passion for sharing what we learn. For example, have you ever had a look at the description of our engineering services?

In our training activity, we differentiate with other suppliers by offering custom sessions, being completely transparent with our training materials, costs and customer evaluations. Here’s how we can also make a difference in our development activity:

  • As in all our activities, by focusing only on the Linux kernel, device drivers, bootloaders, embedded and real-time system development.
  • By offering free mainlining to any customer who orders Linux board support packages or Linux device drivers from us. Having our code accepted in the official Linux and U-boot sources brings terrific benefits to our customers and can be a key contributor to the success of their products.
  • By working inside the Linux development community. Being part of it, we know this community very well: its people, its rules, its best practices and its best resources. This helps us to make the right decisions (if needed, collecting advice from the right people), and quickly obtain the expected results.