Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (8-08-11): RTOSes vs. Linux vs. what next? - Embedded.com

Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (8-08-11): RTOSes vs. Linux vs. what next?

Embedded Newsletter for 08-08-11

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August 8, 2011

Tech Focus: RTOSes vs. Linux vs. what next?


Dumbing down embedded design

Open Embedded: An alternative way to build embedded Linux distributions

Evaluating platform software architectures for nextgen embedded multicore designs

Editor's Note

Bernard Cole Bernard Cole
Site Editor

In his column on “Dumbing down embedded design,” Ron Wilson interviewed John Bruggeman, former chief marketing executive of both Cadence Design Systems and Wind River Systems. The former executive’s dire predictions about the embedded system design industry are already generating comment online.

Bruggeman thinks that the “whole fragmented RTOS-tied world is shrinking ,” and that embedded systems are coming to the point at which “only a handful of mission critical applications will use an RTOS ,” and everything else will be based on Linux/Android. Not only that, he predicts that traditional commercial RTOS embedded tool vendors will be absorbed into companies supplying the hardware building blocks or into companies building the devices.

Much of what he says is true of the mobile phone and connected consumer computing markets, where almost everything that is not Apple-based uses Linux with Android’s user-friendly Java wrapper, adequate for non- real time non-deterministic Web and TCP/IP-driven apps.

In past years, embedded systems companies were able to experience high growth rates because mobile and consumer device companies needed their space-, power-, and resource-efficient RTOSes and development tools, not real time or deterministic performance. Now this market has its own software development platforms, with vendors of RTOSes and C/C++ development tools left with what Bruggeman dismisses as a “handful of mission critical applications.”

Some handful.

Left to hard real-time and deterministic RTOSes and C/C++ tools are many of the traditional embedded markets in the network transport layer infrastructure, automotive engine and industrial machine controls, and military/aerospace, as well as many of the many new smart power infrastructure apps. In addition, there is the emerging IPv6-driven “Internet of things” where mobile phones and mobile computing devices will use only a fraction of the billions upon billions of new IP addresses.

Using the rest? My guess: remote sensors and sensor/controller combinations that will require much harder real time and deterministic capabilities and will be much more demanding  in terms of space, power and performance efficiency than even traditional embedded apps.

What do you think? Collected here are recent Linux and RTOS related design articles to help you evaluate the validity of Bruggeman’s vision. Of these, my Editor’s Top Picks are:

Open Embedded: An alternate way to build embedded Linux
FLIRTing with 8-bit MCU OSes
Android, Linux and real-time development

Design How-Tos

Open Embedded: An alternative way to build embedded Linux distributions

Nick Lethaby and Denys Dmytriyenko of Texas Instruments provide an overview of the key elements of the Open Embedded Linux (OE) build environment and show how to use them to build and customize Linux distributions.

Getting real (time) about embedded GNU/Linux

Here is the latest on how embedded developers can have their Linux operating system and real time deterministic operation too, through the use of various resources now available on line from the embedded systems design and Linux/open source communities.

Readying Linux for today's embedded devices

Linux is making rapid strides into the embedded world. There are several factors that are driving this trend. Many devices such as netbooks, set-top boxes, mobile devices, assorted gadgets, media players, etc, are Linux powered. Cutting down Linux's boot time is one of the final hurdles that's left to be conquered.

PRODUCT HOW-TO: A New Approach to Embedded Linux Development

Dean Misenhimer describes MontaVista's new approach to making commercial embedded Linux an integral part of the overall Linux supply chain and embedded development process.

Android, Linux & Real-time Development for Embedded Systems

Colin Walls of Mentor Graphics provides a quicky look at the Android Mobile OS and Linux and their use in a wide range of embedded applications, its architecture, how apps are developed and the deployment of Android on a variety of multicore based devices.

Linux and Security: Mission Impossible?

I'm personally a big fan of Linux. But searching the Web about its use in high criticality app indicates that while the open source OS is used widely in many mainstream embedded, mobile and desktop apps, it is not the best choice where a high degree of security is necessary.

FLIRTing with 8-bit MCU OSes

FLIRT is for developers who want a small, easy to use, and simple to port operating system for a truly tiny multithreaded system on an eight bit MCU, without sacrificing the ability to multithread and share CPU time effectively.

Building “instant-up” real-time operating systems

Here are three ways to build an instant “up and running” RTOS for use on any target system requiring only some compilation and minimal hardware resources.

Choosing between commercial & roll your own embedded software

The research explains why “roll your own” OS may not have the expected ROI.

Do you have questions about uC/OS-III? Or RTOSs in general?

Your questions may be answered in this Q&A session with the kernel's author Jean Labrosse, founder of Micrium.

Lower the overhead in RTOS scheduling

Research shows that preemption-threshold scheduling helps to mitigate the deadline-vs.-overhead tradeoff.

Evaluating platform software architectures for nextgen embedded multicore designs

To take advantage of the compute power in modern multicore SoCs in many embedded designs, the first step in properly managing and controlling this capability is to understand the major platform architecture choices and tradeoffs.

PRODUCT HOW-TO: Improve CPU Utilization with DEOS Slack RTOS Scheduling

: How to use the DDC-I time-partitioned Deos RTOS to build applications that meet the requirements of the mission-critical ARINC-653 specification needed in many military/aerospace designs.

Embedded Systems Bookshelf


Embedded Books Reading Room
Bernard Cole's favorite links to book excerpts.


Engineer's Bookshelf
Airport fiction blows. A look at books other engineers are reading and why you should read them, too. Recommend and write a review yourself. E-mail Brian Fuller.

Jack Ganssle's Bookshelf
A list of book reviews by Jack Ganssle, contributing technical editor of Embedded Systems Design and Embedded.com.

Max's Cool Beans
Clive “Max” Maxfield, the editor on Programmable Logic DesignLine, often writes about interesting books.


ESC: Express Logic introduces memory-protected application modules for ThreadX RTOS

Express Logic, Inc., has introduced ThreadX RTOS Memory Protection for downloadable application modules, and will be displaying them at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, booth 1729. Downloadable application modules, introduced earlier this year, enable ThreadX-based applications to execute functions dynamically loaded from local mass storage or a network.

Video: Mentor Graphics' ReadyStart embedded platform for Nucleus RTOS

A video interview with Mentor Graphics product marketing manager Steve Olsen who discusses his company's Embedded ReadyStartPlatform for developing embedded devices.

Micrium announces MMU and MPU support for uC/OS-II

Micrium announced the addition of uC/OS-MMU and uC/OS-MPU to its portfolio of products supporting embedded applications.

Wind River's Android test development kit replicates human interactions

Wind River's UX Test Development Kit is an Eclipse-based test-authoring environment enabling the rapid creation of automated test scripts for Android devices, applications and browser-based web content.

MIPS Technologies Launches MIPS Application Development (MAD) program for mobile devices

MIPS Technologies, Inc. has launched a new MIPS Application Development (MAD) Program designed to promote rapid development of applications on the MIPS architecture. The program offers technical support and services for performance testing and compatibility to verify that applications will run as designed on MIPS-Based devices.

The $24.99 Microstick from Microchip is smaller than a stick of gum and includes an integrated programmer/debugger, free demo code and offers easy access to all device signals for probing. It can be used stand-alone or plugged into a prototyping board for extremely flexible development. Learn more about this 16-bit tool at…


Dumbing down embedded design

Like it or not, the abstraction in embedded systems design is changing, again.

Wither Linux?

Linux and Android are the future. Or are they?

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