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DIY embedded Linux service gets automated

Jan 15, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 22 views

[Updated: 12:30PM] — Timesys has launched a version of its LinuxLink embedded Linux development subscription service that offers a new build engine and web-services-based automation. LinuxLink 3.0 features a new interface and Toolkit, and formally implements the “Factory” and “ReadyKit” programs that were launched last year, says Timesys.

Although free embedded Linux code can be found on more than 40,000 sources on the web, says Timesys, harvesting this variable collection of rapidly evolving code offers challenges, including:

  • Producing consistent and repeatable builds from hundreds of independent sources
  • Knowing which patches/packages/libraries to adopt
  • Identifying and resolving hidden dependencies and revision conflicts
  • Integrating development tools that work

The former LinuxLink subscription program, which will continue to be made available as “LinuxLink Classic,” helped organize Linux sources, tools, and other materials by platform, as an alternative between true find-it-yourself DIY approaches and a restrictive, commercially licensed Linux distribution. LinuxLink subscriptions typically include a Linux 2.6x kernel, GNU toolchain, and hundreds of pre-compiled root filesystem (RFS) packages. They also provide access to Timesys TimeStorm development tools, web-based support, and documentation.

A web-services factory

Now LinuxLink 3.0 offers an alternative approach that is far more automated, TimeSys says. Like LinuxLink Classic, LinuxLink 3.0 offers collections of Linux sources, gathered and updated from thousands of community sources, and patched and configured for a wide variety of processors and development kits. However, version 3.0 uses web services technology to package a new build service based on Timesys's beta program for its “Embedded Linux Factory.” The Factory build engine ensures “repeatable builds from source with a scriptable GNU-based environment,” says the company.

Introduced last year for select processors, the beta Factory site has been used by 22 customers, says Timesys. The “Factory” is said to offer a web-based interface to quickly specify, assemble, and build a custom embedded Linux platform for a select processor and associated target. It offers a more streamlined interface for selecting kernel versions and configurations, device drivers, toolchains, glibc/uClibc packages, and platform output options, says the company.

The build-to-order Factory site offers automated feedback and recommendations provided by Timesys engineers, as well as popularity ratings for each component and application selection. Other features include coordinating kernel and root file system configuration options, as well as an RFS “pruning” feature for removing space-consuming files. The Linux Factory won Best in Show in the Development Support category at the 2008 Freescale Technology Forum (FTF).

LinuxLink 3.0 provides a new “Toolbox” interface that gathers appropriate tools and links to the Factory's web services to provide updated and appropriately customized tools, such as GDB and OProfile, for each development profile.

LinuxLink also integrates another program introduced last year, called ReadyKits. These Factory-based board support packages (BSPs) provide a minimalist pre-built platform for quickie prototyping for major platforms.

A chat with Timesys CEO Atul Bansal

Atul Bansal

While the new service seems to be aimed at reaching out to less technical Linux developers, experienced developers are also looking for time-saving automation, as long as they still have the freedom to customize from sources of their choosing, said Timesys CEO Atul Bansal in an interview. “Using the Factory build system and the web interface, customers can download platforms to their desktop to further customize them,” he said. “It allows people control over how they build the platforms and helps them integrate the build process into their production process. When they want to modify software, the Factory engine has a web service interface that goes out to the warehouse and pulls the appropriate software, such as a new library.” Typically, said Bansal, the developer does not even have to ask it to find the library. “The Factory knows when it needs to go find a library,” he said.

The entire LinuxLink website has been upgraded with a new, more user-friendly interface, says the company. Next month, Timesys will add a feature where developers can get a notification on the web or to their desktops when software that they are using has been updated. Meanwhile, documentation and tutorials have also being improved, said Bansal. As an alternative to traditional documentation, customers can choose an instructional format that offers information “more as a prescription,” he said. Other resources including LinuxLink Radio podcasts, webinars, and other education materials are being better integrated into the build process, so users do not need to spend time hunting down resources.

The new Toolbox, meanwhile, combines multiple tools, each of which are linked to the Factory, which connects to all necessary utilities for the job at hand. “Developers don't have to worry about tasks like updating patches for kernels,” said Bansal. “The process becomes transparent. It makes life simpler.”


Timesys is offering a limited-time free LinuxLink 3.0 Test Drive, here. The Test Drive enables developers to build a custom, bootable embedded Linux image for select development kits using the LinuxLink Factory, says the company. More information on LinuxLink 3.0 may be found here.

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