MontaVista delivers embedded Linux and Linux development tools (read Support, Integration Define MontaVista Linux) for a range of applications from carrier grade Linux (read Carrier-Grade Linux Drives COTS) to its latest Mobilinux 5.0. One aspect of this new version is its support for SELinux. This is just one of many features included in the new version but a significant one from my viewpoint.
I had a discussion with Dan Cauchy, senior director of market development, at MontaVista about some of the features in their latest offering.
What is MontaVista Mobilinux 5.0 and what are its target markets?
MontaVista Mobilinux 5.0 is a Linux operating system optimized for mobile applications and devices such as wireless handsets, GPS devices, portable medical devices, portable gaming systems, and others. Its small footprint, real time performance, and power efficiency capabilities have been widely recognized in the industry for superior performance.
What kinds of unique features does Mobilinux 5.0 offer?
Mobilinux is optimized for an environment where device makers must design feature-rich devices with battery efficiency and limited footprints, but requiring superior performance. Features including real time capabilities, power management, small footprint, and fast boot time are particularly critical to many developers.
One unique feature of Mobilinux 5.0 that is unique is that it is the first OS to offer the enhanced security features of SELinux for mobile devices in a package called µSELinux (micro-Security Enhanced Linux).
Most people are not familiar with SELinux. Can you give us a very brief overview?
SELinux, or security-enhanced Linux, was developed by the National Security Agency (NSA) to protect the confidentiality of messages and the integrity of files and system software. Mobilinux 5.0 uses µSELinux, a compact version of the software developed by MontaVista and optimized for mobile applications. µSELinux prevents malware from taking over a device and enables a single Mobilinux device to be accessed by separate users with different security levels.
How well do your customers understand the SELinux support and what kinds of questions are they asking about it?
Currently in the industry, mobile devices have not been a major target of attacks. Therefore, security is typically not a requirement for most design teams. They consider it as nice to have, but not a priority. Most of our customers are currently more concerned right now with power management and maintaining a small footprint than with security. However, we anticipate security to become a larger priority in the future as devices more feature rich—requiring more complex and therefore more vulnerable applications—and more connected.
Why isn’t security a larger concern with your customers, and do you see that changing anytime in the near future?
Over time, security will become increasingly important. We anticipate a gradual adoption of the technology over a period of years. Of course, that could change depending on external influences such as an epidemic of malware. Obviously, as devices become more connected there will be a greater demand for built-in security.
In terms of Mobilinux’ small footprint, what does this mean for devices?
Mobilinux 5.0 can be configured to run in as little as 2 Mbytes and for a typical mobile phone with basic functionality, less than 14 Mbytes. This accelerates performance and frees up memory so developers can add custom functions. In addition, Mobilinux implements technologies to reduce the footprint size of applications as well.
What is significant about the real-time capabilities of Mobilinux?
Over the years, Linux has made significant strides in its real-time capabilities, and Mobilinux was the driver of this innovation. Frankly, the traditional advantages of an RTOS are no longer valid. Mobilinux is able to compete head-to-head, running every application that requires real-time functionality in mobile devices.
What benefits does Mobilinux offer in terms of power management?
With the multimedia functions that handsets increasingly support, battery life and power management are essential. Mobilinux employs dynamic power management capabilities that enable design teams to maximize power saving in their devices without sacrificing too much performance. MontaVista’s dynamic power management is fully configurable.
These power management capabilities can help device makers make serious strides in extending the battery life of their devices. For example, in recent tests on a Texas Instruments OMAP 2430 processor-powered phone, MontaVista Mobilinux played MP3 music files five times as long as the same phone without MontaVista power management.
How do the dynamic power management capabilities of Mobilinux work?
The premise of dynamic power management is that systems experience non-uniform workloads during operation. Dynamic power management encompasses a set of techniques that achieve energy-efficient computation by selectively turning off or reducing the performance of system components when they are idle or partially unexploited. For example, CPUfreq (a tool within the Linux kernel used to manage CPU power) provides the framework for power-efficient and power conscious design through dynamic voltage/frequency scaling (DVFS), which scales operating voltages of resources and corresponding maximum clock speeds.