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Selecting a Platform and Installing Tool Sets

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This chapter is from the book

In this chapter

  • Sources of Information
  • The Project Trailblazer Strategic Direction
  • Building tbdev1, the Embedded Linux Development Workstation
  • Additional Reading

Project Trailblazer commenced. The board of directors approved the project requirements and allocated funding. However, the engineers didn't know what hardware to choose, what software to use, what level of support would be needed, or even some of the performance requirements. They did know that embedded Linux would serve as the development platform because of its performance, reliability, open source, low cost, and support. They also know that Project Trailblazer's aggressive timeframe requires fast action. The engineers needed to choose a CPU architecture, off-the-shelf hardware, a kernel version, development tools, and a host development environment as soon as possible. There's a lot of work to do before the snow flies. In this chapter, we'll follow the engineers' progress in choosing and ordering hardware and building an embedded Linux workstation for multiprocessor development.

Sources of Information

The engineers started the hardware selection process by searching the Web for case studies, examples, and Web sites that discuss actual projects using hardware for embedded Linux applications. They wanted to select target hardware with which someone else had had success when using embedded Linux. Their first search returned a wealth of information, much of which was contained in the following Web sites:

  • The Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC; http://www.embedded-linux.org) is a "nonprofit, vendor-neutral trade association whose goal is the advancement and promotion of Linux throughout the embedded, applied and appliance computing markets." The ELC, which has more than 125 member companies, actively promotes embedded Linux and endorses the ELC platform specification.1 In the future, a developer using an ELC-certified embedded Linux product will be ensured of a common development application programming interface (API). Use of certified products reduces development time, lowers costs, and accelerates the use of Linux in embedded applications. The engineers decided to do business with ELC member companies if possible. These companies are active and support the embedded Linux movement.

  • Linux Devices (http://www.linuxdevices.com), which is created and maintained by Rick Lehrbaum, is an embedded Linux Portal that contains daily news updates on embedded Linux, a complete series of quick reference guides, numerous articles written by key developers, a "Cool Devices" section, numerous links to other Linux sites, and an interactive discussion forum. The engineers find this site to be unbelievable in terms of content coverage, variety, and depth. The quick reference guides "Embedded Linux: An Introduction and Overview,"2 "Embedded Distributions," "Real-time Linux Software," and "Linux-friendly Embedded Single Board Computers"3 provide invaluable information for Project Trailblazer.

  • Embedded Linux Journal (ELJ; embedded.linuxjournal.com) focuses on Linux and other open-source software for use in embedded systems. ELJ offers complimentary bimonthly subscriptions. The Web site contains the magazine's complete article archive. Industry leaders write excellent, thorough, and pertinent articles on embedded Linux for ELJ.

ELC, Linux Devices, and ELJ (and their links to other sites) provide comprehensive information on practically all aspects of embedded Linux. This encouraged the engineers, but the amount of information and the huge number of options in architectures, single-board computers, software distributions, and tools was overwhelming. The engineers were now educated, but they still didn't know where to start in the hardware selection process. They summarized their research and then formulated a strategic direction, as discussed in the following section.

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