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Embedded Linux framework supports industrial Cortex-A8 SoCs

Nov 11, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 5 views

Timesys announced LinuxLink support for two new Cortex A8-based processors from Texas Instruments (TI) that are based on OMAP35x SoCs, but aimed at the industrial market. The LinuxLink framework for embedded Linux development is now available for the Sitara AM3505 and AM3517 SoCs, which run at 500MHz while using less than one Watt.

TI announced the Sitara AM35x system-on-chips (SoCs) last month, targeting them at industrial automation, "smart white goods," digital signage, medical, and in-dash navigation applications. Unlike the similarly Cortex-A8-based OMAP35xx SoCs, they lack video acceleration DSPs (digital signal processors), but the AM3517 SoC is equipped with the OpenGL ES 2.0-based PowerVR SGX graphics accelerator offered with the OMAP3515 and OMAP3530.

A block diagram of TI's AM3517
(Click to enlarge)

According to TI, the 500MHz AM3505 and AM3517 are distinguished by their support of lower-cost DDR2 memory, instead of the LPDDR memory required by the OMAP35x products. The AM35x chips also add 10/100 Ethernet controllers, provide PHY (physical layer) functionality for their USB 2.0 on-the-go interfaces, and include high-end CAN controllers, the company says. These newly integrated peripherals can result in a $10 reduction in overall system cost, the company says.

A TMDXEVM3517 EVM (evaluation module), pictured below, includes an AM3517 SOM (system on module) with 256MB of DDR memory, 512MB of flash storage, a touchscreen display, and peripheral support.

TI's TMDXEVM3517 EVM (evaluation module)
(Click to enlarge)

LinuxLink customers can choose from the latest GNU-based toolchains enabled with uClibc and glibc libraries that have been optimized for ARM's Cortex-A8 core and Neon instruction set, says Timesys. Based on the most recent 2.6.31 Linux kernel, the LinuxLink package comes with support for numerous device drivers available on TI's AM3517 EVM, including, Ethernet, flash, LCD, and USB drivers.

Hundreds of open source and middleware packages are available on LinuxLink's online Factory site, which facilitates the process of building and integrating a custom Linux platform. There is also a desktop version of the Factory build tool that enables developers to integrate third-party packages, custom applications, and proprietary software.

LinuxLink development tools include the Eclipse-based TimeStorm IDE and a variety of debugging tools. Documentation, tutorials, and technical support is also said to be available.

Timesys: Last of the indies?

Timesys, which claims to be the first company to offer embedded Linux support for the Sitara processors, can also claim to be one of the few remaining independent, general-purpose embedded Linux development vendors. This summer, Wind River was acquired by Intel, and Embedded Alley was picked up by Mentor Graphics, and yesterday, Cavium Networks announced it is acquiring MontaVista.

We wouldn't be surprised if TI or another one of Timesys' semiconductor partners got a hankering for the Pittsburgh-based company, but we kind of like the idea of independent embedded Linux development firms — even if the now captured MontaVista and Wind River hold true to their promises to remain agnostic in supporting multiple architectures.

Stated Gerard Andrews, Sitara product line manager, TI, "As the first commercial Linux support offering for our new Sitara family of AM35x MPUs and designs, Timesys' unique LinuxLink development environment and engineer support allows our customers to quickly build a custom Linux platform and focus their engineering resources on developing a value added application."


The LinuxLink subscription for the Texas Instruments Sitara AM35x processors is available now, says Timesys. For a limited time, developers can obtain free trial access to LinuxLink, to quickly configure, build and evaluate embedded Linux on the AM3517 MPU by registering here, and entering promotion code PRAM3517.

More information about LinuxLink subscriptions for TI's AM35x can be found here.

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