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Linux Everywhere: The Rush to Embedded Systems - page 2

Embedded Linux is here!

  • December 7, 1999
  • By Kevin Reichard

Why Linux? Daniel Nilsson, director of sales and marketing at On Channel, says that the open-source ethos of Linux is appealing to hardware manufacturers, who fear commitment to a single vendor. "Think of the same standards and openness of what goes into a power port plugging into a wall, and you get a feeling of how open the embedded-systems market should be," he says. "Linux can be the standard used to connect appliances."

While Coollogic is one of the few firms with an actual shipping product, there are several companies with imminent releases. At COMDEX, Boca Research was showing the $700 BocaVision JNC205 Java Network Terminal, which uses an embedded Linux and Netscape combination to work as a thin-client Java workstation. The terminal--which is basically an Internet appliance--is built around the JNT operating system, developed by Germany's Infomatec Integrated Information Systems AG. It features a multitasking Linux architecture, embedded in a Flash ROM using M-Systems' DiskOnChip and combined with a Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

"It's designed to never go out of date," says Jay K. Nichols, product manager for server-based products at Boca Research. "When you want to update your Linux kernel or JVM, all you need to do is download it on the network and install it."

Interestingly, the JNC205 Java Network Terminal is also set up to mimic a Windows system. It supports the Citrix Independent Computing Architecture and Remote Desktop Protocol display protocols, which basically allow appliances to operate as Windows devices.

The BocaVision JNC205 Java Network Terminal is scheduled to ship before the end of the year.

Two other heavyweights--a Linux heavyweight and an embedded-OS heavyweight--have announced their embedded-Linux plans.

Lynx Real-Time Systems is bringing LynxOS, an established player in the embedded-OS field, to the open-source marketplace in two ways. Under the umbrella of the Lynx Linux Initiative, Lynx Real-Time Systems is developing BlueCat Linux, a Linux distribution optimized for embedded applications and based on Red Hat Linux (with availability in January 2000), as well as releasing a binary-compatible version of the LynxOS embedded operating system by the middle of 2000. (A Lynx open development environment for both is already available.) In addition, Lynx Real-Time Systems will add new technical-support, consulting and training services for Linux developers working in embedded applications.

And Caldera, Inc. (developers of OpenLinux) launched a subsidiary, Lineo, to address the embedded-systems world. Lineo's first Linux product is Embedix, an embedded Linux OS based on OpenLinux, along with an accompanying SDK and embedded micro Web browser. Embedix is scheduled for release sometime in the first quarter of 2000.

With these announcements and product releases, we're nearing the goal of Linux Everywhere. Of course, there'll be situations where you don't even know you're using Linux--like when you're cruising your 500 channels on cable television or calling your mother on that next-generation cell phone. Such is the way of embedded systems.

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