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Embedded Linux Conference Features IoT and Development Tools

Feb. 23, 2017
Technology Editor Bill Wong presents some highlights from the 2017 Embedded Linux Conference.

The 2017 Embedded Linux Conference (ELC) is off to a fine start even as the rain clears up here in Portland, Ore. I don’t often get to sit in on technical sessions at trade shows because of a host of meetings, but this is the exception. If you get a chance, and Linux or Android is in your bailiwick, then ELC is worth attending. It delves into the technical details for using Linux and application spaces like the Internet of Things (IoT), with more hands-on details than our popular (but higher-end) IoT show, IoT Emerge, which will be returning this fall. IoT Emerge provides a high-level view of IoT applications and issues, whereas ELC is for the hardcore developers. 

The challenge at ELC is actually trying to see all the presentations. Luckily they are recording them, and attendees should be able to watch those they missed after the show is over. I know of a dozen I want to check out.

One of the first keynotes included a teleconference interview with Linus Torvalds. This was followed by “Industrial IoT and Open Source” with Imad Sousou, vice president of Intel’s Software and Services group. After that it was off to half a dozen sessions, many of which addressed the Yocto Project. Yocto is the open-source build system for embedded Linux. It can generate custom boot images along with matching SDKs. Many of the sessions addressed new features like the ability to easily build multiple configurations and incrementally enhanced SDKs. The birds-of-a-feather discussion talked about ways to improve Yocto’s build performance in large configurations.

Of course, there were plenty of other interesting Linux things going on, as well. I talked with Renesas about its demo of execute-in-place (XIP) Linux on the RZ microprocessor using dual quad SPI (QSPI) flash memory (see figure). Running from serial flash is slower than running from RAM, but it is a lot less expensive. It also provides faster start-up, since the operating system and applications do not have to be copied to RAM first.

Renesas’ RZ microprocessor does very well with XIP Linux and dual quad SPI (QSPI) flash memory vs. RAM. RAM is faster, but not but a lot.

Renesas’ Advanced XIP Filesystem (AXFS) can actually handle a range of options, including copying information to RAM and supporting compressed file systems. This allows developers to choose which applications or files will run in RAM. Resource-constrained systems can benefit significantly from AXFS.

Microsoft was at ELC, as well. They were showing off their Linux development support using Visual Studio. Developers can copy and remote build using tools like gdb and g++. I also talked with Microsoft representatives about the company’s Azure IoT support, as well as the Windows 10 IoT services.

The major server/desktop Linux platforms were on display as well, including Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Suse. Ubuntu’s Snappy is a modular system tailored to IoT and embedded Linux platforms. Suse was talking about its embedded configurator, which can streamline its enterprise server platform down into a compact form for embedded platforms. Red Hat’s Fedora will be having similar support in version 26.

There were a number of sessions about the open-source Zephyr Project, a compact OS designed for sensor platforms. This tiny RTOS has a growing community. It is derived from Wind River’s commercial VxWorks Microkernel Profile for VxWorks. More details on the Zephyr Project in the near future.

And all this was from the first day, not to mention sessions on optimizing C for microcontrollers and small scripting languages like Micro Python. Hopefully I will have time for highlights from tomorrow and Thursday before catching a plane. In the meantime, I am hoping to convince more than a few of the presenters to develop their talks into articles for Electronic Design. For now, it’s time to get this into an e-mail for posting. Enjoy.

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