Program for Embedded Linux Conference 2009 announced

CELF penguinThe program for the Embedded Linux Conference 2009 has been announced a few days ago, and the registration is now open. For the record, the Embedded Linux Conference is probably the largest technical conference specifically dedicated to the use of Linux on embedded systems. Organized by the CE Linux Forum every year, this conference gathers a large audience and a wide range of very interesting talks.

The 2009 edition of ELC will take place from April 6th to April 8th, in downtown San Francisco, in the United States.

The program features :

  • Almost 50 talks, tutorials and keynotes. The topics go from multimedia, flash filesystems, system initialization, memory management, instrumentation and debugging tools, real-time, embedded distributions, system building,
  • An opening keynote by Dirk Hohndel from Intel
  • A keynote by David Woodhouse, one of the two embedded Linux maintainers
  • Other famous speakers such as Paul Mundt (maintainer of the Linux port to the SuperH architecture), Kate Alhola (from Maemo/Nokia), Dan Malek (from Embedded Alley), Mike Anderson (the PTR group, famous for his JTAG tutorial), Jake Edge (from LWN), Klaas van Gend (from Montavista), Frank Rowand (from Sony, famous for his real-time adventures talk), Jim Ready, Denis Oliver Kropp (DirectFB main developer)
  • A panel on The Linux Kernel, what’s next with Jonathan Corbet, Greg KH, Andrew Morton, Keith Packard and Ted Ts’o
  • And last but not least, a talk from Michael Opdenacker, Free Electrons, on flash filesystems.

Of course, both Michael and I will attend the conference. Hope to meet you there!
Golden Gate Bridge

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 Free Electrons). 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.

Free Electrons 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 Free Electrons 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.

2008 contributions

Here are the contributions that we made to the user and developer community in 2008, thanks to the customers who ordered our engineering and training services.

As you can see, we do our best to have all our contributions merged into mainline sources. So, if you need a new feature in the Linux kernel (supporting your new boards, for example), in development tools and libraries (Buildroot, QEMU…), and want to enjoy this feature in all future updates and releases, don’t hesitate to ask us. We will be glad to work with the community and find a long lasting solution.

Linux kernel

  • [x86] use ELF section to list CPU vendor specific code (commit)
  • [MTD] fix minor typo in the MTD map driver for SHARP SL series (commit)
  • [x86] configurable DMI scanning code (commit)
  • [mm] directly use kmalloc() and kfree() in init/initramfs.c (commit)
  • [x86] consolidate the definition of the force_mwait variable (commit)
  • inflate: refactor inflate malloc code (commit)
  • fs/buffer.c: uninline __remove_assoc_queue() (commit)
  • [x86] make movsl_mask definition non-CPU specific (commit).
  • [x86] move cmpxchg fallbacks to a generic place (commit)
  • [x86] configuration options to compile out x86 CPU support code (commit)
  • Configure out file locking features (commit)
  • Fix comment in include/linux/mmc/host.h (commit)
  • Configure out AIO support (commit)
  • [PCI] allow quirks to be compiled out (commit)
  • [x86] remove PC speaker code (commit)
  • [Doc] improvement to Documentation/SubmittingPatches (commit)
  • Work on multicast and ethtool configurability. Not merged yet.
  • 65 e-mails sent to the kernel newbies mailing list to help new kernel developers.

Buildroot

Thomas Petazzoni became official committer in November 2008. In addition to contributions, patch review and integration of patches into the official Buildroot repository, and discussions on the mailing list.

  • Thumb support, not integrated yet (post)
  • Fixed URL for fakeroot sources, integrated (post)
  • Bumped libpng version, integrated (post)
  • Added the DirectFB examples package, integrated (post)
  • Bumped up libgtk2 version, integrated (post)
  • Work on external toolchain support, integrated. Several iterations, patches and discussions.
  • External toolchain support improvements, integrated (post)
  • More external toolchain fixes, integrated (post)
  • External toolchain C++ cross-compiler fix, integrated (post)
  • Kernel build fix related to external toolchain use, integrated (post)
  • Fixed external toolchain build, integrated, and replaced later with an improved version (post)
  • Fix Qtopia build issues, integrated and then replaced by an improved version (post)
  • Another external toolchain support solution, integrated (post)
  • Fixed TARGET_PATH for external toolchain builds, integrated (post)
  • Fixed strange problems in pango configure target, integrated (post)
  • Strip libgtk2 in the target, integrated (post)
  • Strip pango libraries on the target, integrated (post)
  • Strip gettext libraries on the target, integrated (post)
  • Fix matchbox build, integrated (post)
  • Create zlib installation directory in the staging dir, integrated (post)
  • Bump up lite version, integrated (post)
  • Added a parallel compilation fix for fontconfig, integrated (post)
  • Documentation fixes (post, post)

QEMU

  • Increased write buffer size in pflash emulation, integrated (post)
  • Reset wcycle after erase confirm, integrated (post)
  • Improved pflash cfi01 debug messages, integrated (post)
  • Added missing parenthesis in qemu_ram_alloc(), integrated (post)
  • Add Flash support to the Versatile PB platform (post)

Conferences

New training materials

All our training materials can now be found on our docs page. Some of them are not new, but have undergone substantial updates.

See our recent post for details.

Financial support

We support organizations promoting Free Software:

You may also count our subscriptions to the most useful LWN.net resource.

Miscellaneous

Many new training materials

12 pages with new training materials!

We are happy to release many new training materials that we created along the course of 2008, for our embedded Linux and kernel training sessions:

Many thanks to customers who asked us to cover new topics!

This is actually the tip of the iceberg (with penguins standing on top of it, of course). The documents that have been around for a long time have also undergone significant improvements and have been updated every time new versions with interesting features were released. We are doing our best to keep our training sessions up to date, and this keeps us pretty busy! So, if you haven’t had a look at these documents for a while, you will probably learn new things if you open them again.

Why so many documents at once? Well, we usually try to release the new documents that we create as early as possible. Here are a few excuses for doing this late this time:

  • We’ve had a very busy year (new training sessions, development and service work), preventing us from polishing our new documents and creating new pages describing them.
  • The switch to our new website took more time than expected. We were reluctant to add more pages that would have caused more migration work, and we were also busy deploying the KVM virtualization technology on our new server.
  • We are also switching the documents to a new template, which leaves more space for real content and less space for logos and for information repeated on every page. This work is far from being over yet!
  • We couldn’t release them for National Security reasons Winking smiley.

Now that there’s no infrastructure work left, and that we have run out of excuses (except the one about being busy, we still are), we should be able to release our new documents much earlier.

So, stay tuned on our RSS feed, more will come soon!

Qt goes LGPL

The next release of Qt will be released under the LGPL license

Good news for people developing graphical applications for embedded Linux systems. Nokia, the new owners of Trolltech, announced they will release the next version of the Qt graphical library under the LGPL license. This means that developers will be able to create applications based on the Qt library, with the license of their choice, free software / open source or proprietary.

As we explained in our Choosing graphical libraries for embedded systems presentation, Qt is more than a graphical library. It also offers a complete development framework, with development tools, data structures, threads, networking, XML parsing utilities making application development easier. All these features, and the fact that Qt directly run on top of the Linux framebuffer, also make it possible to create systems with a feature-rich interface without having to drag and build numerous dependencies.

Another bonus is that Qt supports multiple operating systems, making your applications easily portable. If you’ re not allowed to use Linux yet, write your applications with Qt, and once all OS related dependencies are removed, switch to your favorite OS without even letting your boss know wink.

See WikiPedia for details about Qt.

Kernel 2.6.28 is out with a few Free Electrons contributions

A few hours before Christmas, Linus Torvalds released the latest stable version of the Linux kernel, 2.6.28. Jake Edge from LWN sums up the major highlights of this new release: « Some of the highlights of this kernel are the addition of the GEM GPU memory manager, the ext4 filesystem is no longer “experimental”, scalability improvements in memory management via the reworked vmap() and pageout scalability patches, moving the -staging drivers into the mainline, and much more ». As usual, the Kernel Newbies website offers an excellent human-readable summary of the changes.

Of particular interest to embedded developers will be the new boot tracer facility, which allows to draw SVG graphs of the kernel initialization procedures execution time, in order to analyze the boot time and possibly reduce it. Of course, a lot of architecture-dependent improvements have also been made (for example OProfile support for ARMv7 CPUs but also new supported boards) and a lot of drivers have been merged or improved, as usual.

Free Electrons has contributed a few patches that have been merged and released in 2.6.28. While being a small contribution compared to the 9.000+ patches added to the kernel between 2.6.27 and 2.6.28, they still slightly improve the kernel for embedded users. Part of the Linux-Tiny efforts, these patches allow to reduce the size of the kernel by disabling features that may not be necessary on embedded systems. More specifically, these patches allow :

From the existing Linux Tiny patch ideas, the only one left in the feature removal area are the multicast support removal and ethtool removal. They have already been submitted a few months ago, but got rejected by the network maintainers. I will work on them again to fix the issues and try to re-submit them later.

Finally, Jonathan Corbet has published an analysis of the 2.6.28 developement cycle in terms of contributors and changes. An interesting reading.

New LXR website

I am pleased to announce that our http://lxr.free-electrons.com website is back on line.

As some of you probably noticed, our service had been down for several months. When it was working, it was based on LXR 0.9.5. This version had nice improvements over the stable release (0.3.1), like better display of the kernel sources, but on the other hand, it also had ugly drawbacks. In particular, it stored data in an SQL database. This made the server consume more CPU resources, and made it very long to index a new kernel version (about 10 hours instead of just a few minutes). Disk space was also multiplied by 3 or 4, if I recall correctly. Anyway, the major problem was that that version didn’t scale: the service was getting slower each time a new version was added. Apparently, the bigger the database, the slower the server got.

Eventually, that 0.9.5 based server just died. I didn’t change anything before this happened and everything looked all right. I checked configuration files and packages, but there seemed to be no way to make it run again. The only solution left was a brand new install from scratch.

I first evaluated the LXRng, a new fork of the software on the http://lxr.linux.no website. This new version looks nice. In particular, though it’s still using a database, this new branch seems to withstand a greater number of kernel source versions, as http://lxr.linux.no answers pretty fast now and indexes a pretty long list of versions. However, I found its interface confusing and not as convenient as it was in the original branch, especially for identifier search. It could be because this new version is not mature enough yet, or just because I was too familiar with the original interface. The best is to try by yourself!

I also tried to make a new installation of the latest CVS sources of the main branch. However, this didn’t work as expected, as I wanted to run the new service on a recent distro with long term support (Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon). Gutsy Gibbon only supports MySQL 5.0, but LXR-CVS proved to be only compatible with MySQL 4.0. I did apply some patches, but still got SQL query errors with MySQL 5.0.

I eventually decided to go back to the good old 0.3.1 stable version, and I don’t regret it:

  • This version is extremely simple. You just need a web server with CGI scripts. No trouble with Apache2, no need to make modperl work. No need to install database software.
  • This version is extremely fast too. It just takes a few minutes to add a new version, and serving identifier searches is very fast. Just try with a widely used function, like outb. With LXR 0.9.5, it could take up to 1 minute to display all the files in which the symbol was found.
  • This version scales by design. Each supported source version has its own index files, and there is no central blob getting bigger and bigger. This simple design also makes it very easy to remove or to update source versions (like upgrading 2.6.28 sources to 2.6.28.1). With LXR 0.9.5, you had to make your own SQL queries to remove a version from the database!
  • This version lacks a few features (like direct links to C include files, or like file descriptions), but hey, the main features are there: source navigation and identifier search. The only significant feature that is kind of missing in our site is freetext search. Version 0.3.1 only supported a proprietary searching tool, so we decided to rely on Google’s search instead. This is not perfect as we won’t have version-specific search, but freetext search is a secondary feature for us anyway. We wanted to have this service back on line, with at least its main features.
  • Note that I had to make minor changes to make the website XHTML 1.0 Transitional compliant and pass the W3C Markup Validation Service checks I also fixed a bug in the diff markup script. Here is an archive of our install. Don’t hesitate to compare it with the original code and templates, and reuse our modified templates if you like them.

Thanks to this, the code hyperlinks in our kernel training slides work again at last! Every time we mention the name of a kernel source file or quote example code, you can click on the file name or on each function or structure type name, and you will be taken to the corresponding page on our LXR site!

Don’t forget that other valuable LXR websites exist for the Linux kernel. See our LXR websites list. Don’t hesitate to post a comment if you know other useful ones.

Choosing graphical libraries for embedded systems

The free software community offers many solutions to embedded system developers willing to add graphical applications to their project. This variety of choice, typical from the free software world, has the advantage of giving several solutions, which increases the chance of finding the solution that bests suits your need, but at the same time, might confuse to choose the right one.

I made experiments with the major graphical libraries available, and reported these experiments during the Embedded Linux Conference Europe event, which took place early November 2008 in Ede, The Nederland. My presentation « Choosing graphical libraries for embedded systems » discussed DirectFB, X.org and its Kdrive variant, SDL, Nano-X, Gtk, Qt, FLTK and WxEmbedded, detailing the features, specifities, size of each solution and suitability to various use cases.

The slides are available under the Creative Commons BY-SA license : graphical-libraries.pdf (PDF), graphical-libraries.odp (Open Document Format).

While experimenting with these graphical libraries, I made a few contributions to the Buildroot project, which was used to build root filesystems including these libraries. I hope to release soon several root filesystems allowing an easy testing of these solutions, through Qemu.

uClibc 0.9.30 is available

About one year and a half after the release of the previous stable version, the release of uClibc 0.9.30 is a great event in the embedded Linux community. uClibc is a replacement for the glibc C library, implementing most of the features of glibc, while retaining a much smaller size and an incredible level of configurability.

The only changelog available is a list of Subversion commits that occurred between the 0.9.29 and the 0.9.30 releases, so it is quite difficult to extract what are the important bits. However, a news from August 2008 on uClibc.org website gives an idea of what happened in the 0.9.30 version :

  • a lot of fixes for the various architectures, and other tweaks and improvements
  • an improved configurability that allows to enable/disable a larger number of features, now including
    • Realtime-related family of SUSv functions (option UCLIBC_HAS_REALTIME, which enables aio_*() functions, mq_*() functions, mlock() family of functions, sched_*() functions, sem_*() functions, a few signal-related functions and the timer_*() functions). Threading support requires the realtime functions, so it depends on this option.
    • Advanced realtime-related family of SUSv functions (option UCLIBC_HAS_ADVANCED_REALTIME, which enables a few advanced clock_*() and mq_*() functions, and a large number of posix_spawnattr_*() and posix_spawn_*() functions)
    • epoll (option UCLIBC_HAS_EPOLL)
    • extended attributes (option UCLIBC_HAS_XATTR)
    • other options to enable/disable compatibility/deprecated APIs
  • it is now possible to build uClibc without network support at all. The global option is UCLIBC_HAS_NETWORK_SUPPORT, and can be further refined with UCLIBC_HAS_SOCKET to enable just the socket support (for example if only Unix sockets are used), UCLIBC_HAS_IPV4 to get IPv4 functionality, which of course requires the socket support, and UCLIBC_HAS_IPV6 for IPv6.

A quick look at the differences between the available options allows to see another set of features:

  • Support for the AVR32 and Xtensa architecture has been added
  • A configuration option to enable non-functional stubs for features that are not implemented on a given architecture. This option for example enables a stub fork() function on non-MMU architectures so that applications can easily be recompiled, without checking all the fork() sites from the beginning
  • Options to enable/disable Linux-specific or BSD-specific functions

The allnoconfig setup with shared library is reported to have been reduced by 30%, though the allnoconfig setup doesn’t necessarily correspond to a classical usage of uClibc.

The tarball is available here.