Bootlin at the Embedded Linux Conference and Android Builders Summit

In just two weeks from now, the Embedded Linux Conference will start in San Francisco, followed by the Android Builders Summit, at the usual Hotel Kabuki location, where the conference is taking place for the third consecutive year.

Embedded Linux Conference 2011

The program of the Embedded Linux Conference has been announced recently, and as usual, features a wide set of technical embedded Linux talks:

  • Filesystem/storage: Power Fail Safe FAT File System, Optimizations For Cheap Flash Media, from Arnd Bergmann, who has also recently published a very interesting article on the same topic.
  • Power management: Faster Resume For More Energy Savings on MeeGo, Powerdebug(ging): A Linaro Perspective, How to Power Tune a Device Running on a Linux Kernel for Better Suspend Battery Life, The Evolution of Tracing and Profiling for Power Management and Accelerators, Runtime PM: Upstream I/O Device Power Management
  • Real-time: Solving Real-Time Scheduling Problems with RT_PREEMPT and Deadline-Based Scheduler, Real-time Audio on Embedded Devices, Identifying Embedded Real-Time Latency Issues: I-Cache and Locks
  • Build system, with a huge number of Yocto-related talks, but no other build systems represented: State of OpenEmbedded Internal Toolchain and SDKs, Yocto Project: Practical Kernel Development Tutorial, Building Custom Embedded Images with Yocto, The Yocto Project and its Application Development Toolkit (ADT) – The Answer to Effective Embedded Application Development, Yocto Project Community BoFs, Delivering Predictability: The Yocto Project Autobuilder, Automated Sanity Testing, License Collection, and Build Statistics Tracking
  • Multimedia: Fun with QML and JavaScript, Integrating a Hardware Video Codec into Android Stagefright using OpenMAX IL, Media Controller Framework (MCF) For OMAP2+ Display Subsystem, Video4linux: Progress, New videobuf2 Framework and the Media Controller, Bringing up HDMI Display for OMAP4 Panda Board – Design, Challenges and Lessons Learned, Linux Graphics Meets the ARM Ecosystem
  • FPGA: Dynamic Co-simulation of FPGA-based Linux Systems-on-Chip, A High Performance Interface Between the OMAP3 and an FPGA
  • Networking: What Embedded Linux Developers Should Know About IPv6, Zigbee Networking & Linux
  • Debugging: Kernel Shark Tutorial and Tools and Techniques for Debugging Embedded Systems
  • Optimization: Snapshot Booting on Embedded Linux, ARM Neon Instruction Set and Why You Should Care, Controlling Memory Footprint at All Layers: Linux Kernel, Applications, Libraries and Toolchain, High-Performance Computing using GPUs, What Are and How to Find a Program’s Unused DSOs
  • Low-level: Board Bringup: Open Source Hardware and Software Tools, Working with HardIRQs: Life Beyond Static IRQ Assignments, Genie in the Bottle: Linux Drivers for the AM1808 PRU
  • And many other talks on various topics: LLVM, Clang and Embedded Linux Systems, Linaro: A Year of Change, Control, Recover and Debug Your Embedded Product with PCD, Developer’s Diary: Helping the Process, High-Level Web Interface to Low-Level Linux I/O on the Beagleboard, Linaro Automated Validation on ARM, Crowd Sourcing and Protecting the Open Source Community, Android for Servers?, Hot Multi-OS Switch: How to run Ubuntu, ChromiumOS, Android at the Same Time on an Embedded Device.

This edition will be the first one organized since the merge between the CE Linux Forum into the Linux Foundation, and will therefore be a great opportunity to see if this merge had any impact on the technical quality of the conference.

My colleagues Maxime Ripard (who joined Bootlin just a week ago) and Gregory Clement as well as myself will be present at the Embedded Linux Conference and the Android Builders Summit, and we will as usual record all talks of both of these conferences and will put them online, as we have done recently for the talks that took place during the Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2010 in Cambridge. Do not hesitate to meet us in San Francisco!

ELC-E 2010 tutorial videos

Videos from the embedded Linux and Android tutorials at ELC-E 2010, by Chris Simmonds

As releasing ELC-E 2010 videos, here are recordings of the embedded Linux and Android tutorials, performed by Chris Simmonds on October 26, 2010.

Chris SimmondsVideo capture
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The Embedded Linux Quick Start Guide – Part 1
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Video (52 minutes, 397M)
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The Embedded Linux Quick Start Guide – Part 2
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Video (79 minutes, 660M)
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The Embedded Linux Quick Start Guide – Part 3
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Video (67 minutes, 501M)
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What else can you do with Android? – Part 1
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Video (49 minutes, 432M)
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What else can you do with Android? – Part 2
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Video (31 minutes, 293M)
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What else can you do with Android? – Part 3
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Video (59 minutes, 545M)

Linux 2.6.33 features for embedded systems

Interesting features for embedded Linux system developers

Penguin workerLinux 2.6.33 was out on Feb. 24, 2010, and to incite you to try this new kernel in your embedded Linux products, here are features you could be interested in.

The first news is the availability of the LZO algorithm for kernel and initramfs compression. Linux 2.6.30 already introduced LZMA and BZIP2 compression options, which could significantly reduce the size of the kernel and initramfs images, but at the cost of much increased decompression time. LZO compression is a nice alternative. Though its compression rate is not as good as that of ZLIB (10 to 15% larger files), decompression time is much faster than with other algorithms. See our benchmarks. We reduced boot time by 200 ms on our at91 arm system, and the savings could even increase with bigger kernels.

This feature was implemented by my colleague Albin Tonnerre. It is currently available on x86 and arm (commit, commit, commit, commit), and according to Russell King, the arm maintainer, it should become the default compression option on this platform. This compressor can also be used on mips, thanks to Wu Zhangjin (commit).

For systems lacking RAM resources, a new useful feature is Compcache, which allows to swap application memory to a compressed cache in RAM. In practise, this technique increases the amount of RAM that applications can use. This could allow your embedded system or your netbook to run applications or environments it couldn’t execute before. This technique can also be a worthy alternative to on-disk swap in servers or desktops which do need a swap partition, as access performance is much improved. See this LWN.net article for details.

This new kernel also carries lots of improvements on embedded platforms, especially on the popular TI OMAP platform. In particular, we noticed early support to the IGEPv2 board, a very attractive platform based on the TI OMAP 3530 processor, much better than the Beagle Board for a very similar price. We have started to use it in customer projects, and we hope to contribute to its full support in the mainline kernel.

Another interesting feature of Linux 2.6.33 is the improvements in the capabilities of the perf tool. In particular, perf probe allows to insert Kprobes probes through the command line. Instead of SystemTap, which relied on kernel modules, perf probe now relies on a sysfs interface to pass probes to the kernel. This means that you no longer need a compiler and kernel headers to produce your probes. This made it difficult to port SystemTap to embedded platforms. The arm architecture doesn’t have performance counters in the mainline kernel yet (other architectures do), but patches are available. This carries the promise to be able to use probe tools like SystemTap at last on embedded architectures, all the more if SystemTap gets ported to this new infrastructure.

Other noticeable improvements in this release are the ability to mount ext3 and ext2 filesystems with just an ext4 driver, a lightweight RCU implementation, as well as the ability to change the default blinking cursor that is shown at boot time.

Unfortunately, each kernel release doesn’t only carry good news. Android patches got dropped from this release, because of a lack of interest from Google to maintain them. These are sad news and a threat for Android users who may end up without the ability to use newer kernel features and releases. Let’s hope that Google will once more realize the value of converging with the mainline Linux community. I hope that key contributors that this company employs (Andrew Morton in particular) will help to solve this issue.

As usual, this was just a selection. You will probably find many other interesting features on the Linux Changes page for Linux 2.6.33.