Linux is appearing in the wild more and more – unbeknownst to most consumers. If you have a Linksys router, it’s the box’s embedded OS. If you have a Volvo, the engine management system is Linux-based. It’s even employed to enable pacemakers to transmit data wirelessly to warn of a heart attack. There’s even a Linux-based watch, but Sesame would kill me.
Linux-based kernels are favoured in these smaller systems for three key reasons:
- they make the most of limited hardware
- Linux is cheap (often free)
- it is well documented and understood, not relying on proprietary code that is protected
We’d like to gather together some links here for you to explore, to find out more about Linux in the devices you use every day.
Linux is not without its problems though – some of the code in the kernel is flaky to say the least, and many things that users take for granted, such as Firewire support and drivers for common hardware, are either nightmarish to enable, or just non-existent. However, kernel support for hardware is improving and much of the more imaginative code is being weeded out rapidly.
Away from the purely embedded side, Sony have had success with the Linux development kit for the PlayStation2 – a product that only demonstrates how flexible the operating system really is. Sony produced the kit to encourage home development for the system – much like the Yaroze version of the PS1. Sadly, though, we can’t remember the last time we popped into Game and bought a title that was written on either dev system – to an extreme with the PS2, the two platforms are enormously complex and hardly the sort of things that bedroom coders will be able to produce a top-flight title with. Oh, bring back the days of Braben and Bell and Elite.
With the number of devices growing daily, Linux seems to be expanding just as fast as the whole Digital Lifestyles world – and we’ll keep you up to date with the pros and cons of this fascinating growth area.