Tag Archives: embedded linux

Parallel Spaghetti – decoded

Here's the decoding procedure for the Parallel Spaghetti Decode challenge.

Step 1, the answers to all the questions. You will notice that I did have some fun in D6 and E2, but since they were boxes that weren't on the right track anyway I thought you'd still enjoy them.

Step 2, let me illustrate how the above answers will take you through the maze. The correct path is made up out of yellow boxes and the correct answers are shown with red arrows leading forward. Click it for full resolution version.

The parallel spaghetti challenge correct track shown

Step 3, those different colors in the "Word" column give you the words used for the two questions. If you rearrange them, the two questions become:

which tr command line option specifies delete characters

and

what curl command line option specifies POST requests

So, it took about 14 minutes at our event for Oscar Andersson to bring the correct answer to me:

-d

Parallel Spaghetti Decode Challenge

At the embedded hacking event in GBG yesterday I organized a small contest for the attendees. I've done something similar several times before, so I wanted to make it a bit different this time to spice things up a bit. A straight-forward N questions in a row and then a puzzle to get the final question was too easy. I wanted to create a maze or a play-field that you would need to traverse somehow in order to reach the final goal. But it is hard to create a maze that you don't immediately spot the way through or that you can somehow "cheat" and find the way in other means rather than to actually answer the questions and do right by using your skills... Then I realized that with just a couple of things added, I could fulfill my goals and still get a fun contest. So, let me start by taking you through the first slide that details the rules:

The contest rules

Ok, so to make the rules be a bit clearer we take a look at a simplified example play field so that we understand what we're about to play on:

A small example play-field

A short summary:

  1. start on a green box
  2. follow the arrow in the direction that your answer to the question of the box leads you. There's a compass rose there to help you remember the directions! ūüôā
  3. each box you visit has a word associated with it, collect the words along the path
  4. when you reach the red box you've read the goal and you're done
  5. then you re-arrange all the box words you've collected and create a final question
  6. answer that questions, the fastest to answer wins!

Everything clear? To help the participants, we had both the playfield and the associated questions printed out on two sheets of paper that we handed out together with a pen. The amount of data is just a bit too much to be able to show on a single screen and it may help to use a pen etc to remember the track you take and which words to remember etc. If you want to repeat the exact same situation, you do the same! I did a special black-and-white version of the playfield to make it more printer-friendly. You may want to fire this up in full resolution to get the best experience:

full-spaghetti-playfield-maze

The question sheet looks like this, but click it for the full PDF:

All questions for the challenge

I posted√ā¬†the answers and everything in a separate post!

Rpi night in GBG

pelagicore logo

Daniel talking So I flew down to and participated at yet another embedded Linux hacking event that was also co-organized by me, that took place yesterday (November 20th 2013) in Gothenburg Sweden.

The event was hosted by Pelagicore in their nice downtown facilities and it was fully signed up with some 28 attendees.

I held a talk about the current situation of real-time and low latency in the Linux kernel, a variation of a talk I've done before and even if I have modified it since before you can still get the gist of it on this old slideshare upload. As you can see on the photo I can do hand-wavy gestures while talking! When I finally shut up, we were fed tasty sandwiches and there was some time to socialize and actually hack on some stuff.

Embedded Linux hackers in GBG

I then continued my tradition and held a contest. This time I did raise the complexity level a bit as I decided I wanted a game with more challenges and something that feels less like a quiz and more like a game or a maze. See my separate post for full details and for your chance to test your skills.

This event was also nicely synced in time with the recent introduction of the foss-gbg mailing list, which is an effort to gather people in the area that have an interest in Free and Open Source Software. Much in the same way foss-sthlm was made a couple of years ago.

Pelagicore also handed out 9 Raspberry Pis at the event to lucky attendees.

Embedded and Raspberry Pis in GBG

Kjell Ericson's blinking leds

On November 20, we'll gather a bunch of interested people in the same room and talk embedded Linux, open source and related matters. I'll do a talk about real-time in Linux and I'll run a contest in the same spirit as I've done before several times.

Sign-up here!

Pelagicore is hosting and sponsoring everything. I'll mostly just show up and do what I always do: talk a lot.

So if you live in the area and are into open source and possibly embedded, do show up and I can promise you a good time.

(The photo is actually taken during one of our previous embedded hacking events.)

Videos from the embedded hacking day

Here are the videos from the embedded Linux hacking day foss-sthlm arranged on October 20th 2012. They are all speaking Swedish:

Linux och open source inom inbyggda system

med Daniel Stenberg

Yocto-projektet

med Björn Stenberg

Utveckling och trender av multicorekretsar inom halvledarindustrin

med Jonas Svennebring

Reverse engineering - egen kod på andras hårdvara

med Linus Nielsen Feltzing

Embedded Linux Contest

During our embedded Linux hacking event in Stockholm on October 20th I ran a little contest for the ones who wanted to participate. I created it entirely by myself to allow as many people as possibly to participate with them knowing me or me knowing them etc limiting the fun.

For your amusement I include the full contest here. If you want to try it out, then make sure you don't attempt to google for any answers or otherwise use a machine/computer as a help.

img1

img2

img3

Here I just want to mention that, as is shown in the above example question, 'ace' is the correct character sequence and the letters should then be kept in that order in the final question. Also note that a character sequence can legally contain a dash as well. You will get 16 similar sequences of 1 to 3 letters, and those 16 sequences should be moved around to form the 17th question.

img4

... at this point I fired off all the questions one by one at about 15-20 seconds per question. In this blog post I'll take a shortcut and instead show you the final page I made that showed all questions at once, which I then left displayed for the remainder of the competition √ā¬†time. Click the image to get a full resolution version that is perfectly readable:

all questions at once

the winners of the contestMy take away from this contest is that it was harder than I anticipated and took a longer time to crack than I thought. I gave away a few additional clues and hints as the time went by, but in the end I believe there were several persons who were very close to breaking it at almost the same time. In the end, Klas and Jonas presented the correct answer first and won the bottle of Champagne. I'm sure you appreciate their efforts after having tried this yourself!

The answers? Are you really sure? The correct answers and the final question with its answer is available...

I had a great time creating the competition and I believe the competitors appreciated it.

Additional trivia: I created the letter sequences for the other alternatives by writing other√ā¬†English√ā¬†phrases and chopped them up, so that they were from actual English and hence possibly more believable.

Embedded Linux hacking day

eneaOn September 10th, I sent out the invite to the foss-sthlm community for an embedded hacking event just before lunch.√ā¬†In just four hours, the 40 available tickets had been claimed and the waiting list started to get filled up as well... I later increased the amount to 46, we had some cancellations and I handed out more tickets and we had 46 people signed up at the day of the event (I believe 3 of these didn't show up). At the day the event started, we still had another 20 people in the waiting list with hopes of getting a spot!

(All photos in this post are scaled down versions, click the picture to see a slightly higher resolution version!)

In Enea we had found an excellent sponsor for this event. They provided the place, the food, the raspberry pis, the coffe, the tshirts, the infrastructure and everything else that had to be there to make it an awesome day.

the-roomWe started off the event at 10:00 on October 20 in the Enea offices in Kista, Stockholm Sweden. People dropped in one by one and were handed their welcome present√ā¬†containing√ā¬†a raspberry pi board, a 2GB SD card and a USB-to-serial cable to interface/power the board with. People then found their seats in the room.

There were fruit, candy, water and coffee to start off and keep the mood high. We experienced some initial wifi and internet access problems but luckily we had no less than two dedicated Enea IT support people present and they could swiftly fix the little hiccups that occurred.

coffee machines

Once everyone seemed to have landed, I welcomed everyone and just gave a short overview of what to expect from the day, where the toilets are and so on.

In order to try to please everyone who couldn't be with us at this event, due to plans or due to simply not having got one of the attractive 40 "tickets", Björn the cameramanEnea helped us arrange a video camera which we used during the entire day to film all talks and the contest. I can't promise any delivery time for them but I'll work on getting them made public as soon as possible. I'll make a separate blog post when there's something to see. (All talks were in Swedish!)

At 11:30 I started off the day for real by holding the first presentation. We used one of the conference rooms for this, just next to the big room where everyone say hacking. This day we had removed all tables and only had chairs in the room movie theater style and it turned out we could fit just about all attendees in the room this way. I think that was good as I think almost everyone sat down to hear and see me:

Open Source in Embedded Systems

daniel talks open source I did a rather non-technical talk about a couple of trends in the embedded operating systems market and√ā¬†how I see the upcoming future and then some additional numbers etc. The full presentation (with most of the text in Swedish) can be found on slideshare.

I got good questions and I think it turned out an interesting discussion on how things run and work these days.

After my talk (which I of course did longer than planned) we served lunch. Three different sallads, bread and stuff were brought out. Several people approached me to say how they√ā¬†appreciated√ā¬†the food so I must say that Enea managed really well on that account too!

Development and trends in multicore CPUs

jonas talks about CPUs
Jonas Svennebring from Freescale was up next and talked about current multicore CPU development trends and what the√ā¬†challenges√ā¬†are for the√ā¬†manufacturers√ā¬†are today. It was a very good and very technical talk and he topped it off by showing off his board with T4240 running, Freecale's latest flagship chip that is just now about to become available for companies outside of Freescale.

T4240 from FreeescaleOn this photo on the left you see the power supply in the foreground and the ATX board with a huge fan and cooler on top of the actual T4240 chip.

T4240 is claimed to have a new world record in coremark performance, features 12 hyper-threaded ppc cores in up to 1.8GHz.

There were some good questions to Jonas and he delivered good and well thought out answers. Then people walked out in the big room again to continue getting some actual hacking done.

We then took the√ā¬†opportunity to hand out the very√ā¬†nice-looking tshirts to all attendees, again kindly done so by Enea.

The Contest

The next interruption was the contest. Designed entirely by me to allow everyone to participate, even my friends and Enea employees etc. On the photo on the right you can see I now wear the tshirt of the day.

the contest
The contest was hard. I knew it was hard as I wanted it really make it a race that was only for the ones who really get embedded linux and have their brain laid out properly!

I posted the entire contest in separate blog post, but the gist of it was that I presented 16 questions with 3 answer alternatives. Each alternative had a sequence of letters. So after 16 questions you had 16 letter sequences you had to put in the right order to get a 17th question. The first one to give a correct answer to that 17th question would win.

A whole bunch of people gave up immediately but there was a core group who really√ā¬†fought√ā¬†hard, long and bravely and in the end we got a winner. The winner had paired up so the bottle of champagne went jointly to Klas and Jonas. It was a very close call as others were within seconds of figuring it out too.

I think the competition was harder than I thought. Possibly a little too hard...

Your own code on others' hardware

linus talksLinus from Haxx (who shouldn't be much of a stranger to readers of this blog) then gave some insights on how he reversed engineered mp3 players for the Rockbox project. Reverse engineering is a subject that attracts many people and I believe it has some sort of magic aura around it. Again many good questions and interested people in the room.

Linus bare targets as seen during his talk On the photo on the right you can see Linus' stripped down hardware which he explained he had ripped off all components from in order to properly hunt down how things were connected on the PCB.

Coffee

We did not keep the time schedule so we had to get the coffee break in after Linus, and there were buns and so on.

Yocto

Björn from Haxx then educated the room on the Yocto Project. What it is, why it is, who it is and a little about how it is designed and how it works etc.

bjorn talks on yocto

I think perhaps people started to get a little soft in their brain as we had now blasted through all but one of the talks, and as a speaker finale we had Henrik...

u-boot on Allwinner A10

Henrik Nordström did a walk-through explaining some u-boot basics and then explained what he had done for the Allwinner targets and related info.

Henrik talks u-boot
I believe the talks were kind of the glue that made people stick around. Once Henrik was done and there was no more talks planned for the day, it was obvious that it was sort of the signal for people to start calling it a day even though there was still over one hour left until the official end time (20:00).

Henriks hardware
Of course I don't blame anyone for that. I had hardly had any time myself to sit down or do anything relaxing during the day so I was kind of exhausted myself...

Summary

I got a lot of very positive comments from people when they left the facilities with big smiles on their faces, asking for more of these sorts of events in the future.

The back of the Enea tshirtI am very happy with the overly positive response, with the massive interest from our community to come to such an event and again, Enea was an awesome sponsor for this.

Talk audienceI didn't get anything done on the raspberry pi during this day. As a matter of fact I never even got around to booting my board, but I figure that wasn't a top priority for me this day.

The crowd size felt really perfect for these facilities and 40 something also still keeps the spirit of familiarity and it doesn't feel like a "big" event or so.

Will I work on making another event similar to this again? Sure. It might not happen immediately, but I don't see why it can't be made again under similar circumstances.

Credits

rpi accessed with tabletAll photos on this page were taken by me, Björn Stenberg, Kjell Ericson, Mats Lidell and Mia Åkerström.

Thanks to Jonas, Björn, Linus and Henrik for awesome talks.

Thanks to Enea for sponsoring this event, and Mia then in particular for being a good organizer.

Three years of Haxx

Haxx logoAt October first, another full year of work at Haxx has been spent since I last summed up the past year (my previous√ā¬†posts about Haxx's first year and√ā¬†second year). Three years working for Haxx full-time, and it has been another great year with lots of fun, challenges and us enjoying being independent.

During this year I ended my previous engagement with that large chip company and got a new assignment for the same customer both Bj√ɬ∂rn and Linus were working for at the time. It has been a big adventure for me as I dove straight into unknown territories and I've spent my work days since then as a product manager, making an embedded Linux distribution. In this role I've travelled to US, China and South Korea during the year and I'm serving as a member of an advisory board in a related organization on behalf of my customer! I recently agreed to extending this contract to at least April 2013. Partly due to this new assignment I've not worked very much on√ā¬†foss-sthlm activities recently, but after the summer I've really made an effort to√ā¬†get this back up to speed.

Birthdaycake

Later during the year, Linus changed assignment to a new customer when we signed a sort of partnership contract with a leading global embedded software company and he then continued to do a whole series of little projects for them. After the summer Linus has grabbed a couple of curl related projects, partly still in progress.

Björn stuck around at the same customer during the entire year, and he's been working as an engineer and developer in the team that actually makes the product I am a manager for.

Haxx towelThis year we made more Haxx√ā¬†merchandise. Towels, stickers and jackets have now been sent out in the world to make our name more visible in a few weird corners of the universe.

We visisted FSCONS 2011 and FOSDEM 2012, two really nice conferences for FOSS fans like us and we got to meet a lot of friends and like-minded people there.

We continue to see a demand on the market for highly skilled embedded developers, including embedded Linux and open source related activities. We wouldn't mind extending our merry team, so we decided to document a list of requirements of what to have in order to get hired by us. So far not a single person has applied...

Travel for fun or profit

As a protocol geek I love working in my open source projects curl, libssh2, c-ares and spindly. I also participate in a few related IETF working groups around these protocols, and perhaps primarily I enjoy the HTTPbis crowd.

Meanwhile, I'm a consultant during the day and most of my projects and assignments involve embedded systems and primarily embedded Linux. The protocol part of my life tends to be left to get√ā¬†practiced√ā¬†during my "copious" amount of spare time - you know that time after your work, after you've spent time with your family and played with your kids and done the things you need to do at home to keep the household in a decent shape. That time when the rest of the family has gone to bed and you should too but if you did when would you ever get time to do that fun things you really want to do?

IETF has these great gatherings every now and then and they're awesome places to just drown in protocol mumbo jumbo for several days. They're being hosted by various cities all over the world so often I deem them too far away or too awkward to go to, also a lot because I rarely have any direct monetary gain or compensation for going but rather I'd have to do it as a vacation and pay for it myself.

IETF 83 is going to be held in Paris during March 25-30 and it is close enough for me to want to go and HTTPbis and a few other interesting work groups are having scheduled meetings. I really considered going, at least to meet up with HTTP friends.

Something very rare instead happened that prevents me from going there! My customer (for whom I work full-time since about six months and shall remain nameless for now) asked me to join their team and go visit the large embedded conference ESC in San Jose, California in the exact same week! It really wasn' t a hard choice for me, since this is my job and being asked to do something because I'm wanted is a nice feeling and position - and they're paying me to go there. It will also be my first time in California even though I guess I won't get time to actually see much of it.

I hope to write a follow-up post later on about what I'm currently working with, once it has gone public.

What is Android anyway

Android, the software environment, has gotten a lot of press, popularity and interest from all over lately. People on the streets know there's something called Android, companies know people know and so on. Everyone (well apart from a few competitors perhaps) likes Android it seems.

Being an embedded guy I like keeping an eye on the embedded world and Android being pretty embedded this at least tangents my universe. What is Android anyway? android.com says Android is "an open-source software stack for mobile devices, and a corresponding open-source project led by Google". Not very specific, is it?

Android on different devicesAndroid

You can already find Android on mobile phones, media players, tablets, TVs and more. Very soon we'll see it in car infotainment equipment, GPSes and all sorts of things that have displays. Clearly Android is not only for mobile phones and not even necessarily for mobile things. TVs often aren't that mobile... And not touchscreen either.

Android with tweaks

The fact that there hardly are two Android installs completely alike is frequently debated. Lots of manufacturers patch and change the look and feel of Android to differentiate. Android is not associated with any particular look or feel quite clearly.

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Android with binary drivers

Almost all Android installations you get on the Android phones and devices today have a fair amount of closed, proprietary drivers. It means that even if the companies provide the source code for all the free parts in time (which they sometimes have a hard time to do it seems), there are still parts that you don't get to see the code for. So getting a complete Android installation from source to run on your newly purchased Android device can be a challenge. Also, it shows that Android can consist of an unspecified amount of extra proprietary pieces that don't disqualify it from being Android.

Android without apps

I have friends who work on devices where the customer has request them to run Android, although they don't have any ability to run 3rd party apps. Android is then only there for the original developers writing specific code for that device. Potential buyers of that device won't get any particular Android benefits that they might be used to from their mobile phones running Android, as the device is completely closed in all practical aspects.

Android without market

Devices that don't meet Google's demands and don't get to be "Google certified" don't get to install the google market app etc, but at least a company who wants to can then in fact install their own market app or offer another way for customers to get new apps. The concept of getting and installing apps aren't bound to the market app being there. In fact, I've always been expecting that some other companies or parties would come along and provide an alternative app that would offer apps even to non-google-branded devices but obviously nobody has yet stepped up to provide that in any significant way.

Android without Java

I listened√ā¬† to a talk at an embedded conference recently where the person did a 40 minute talk on why we should use Android on our embedded systems. He argued that Android was (in this context) primarily good for companies because it avoids GPL and LGPL to a large extent. He talked about using "Android" in embedded devices and cutting out everything that is java, basically only leaving the Linux kernel and the BSD licensed bionic libc implementation. Of course, bionic may now also provide features to the rest of the system that glibc and uClibc do not, they being designed as more generic libcs.

Personally, I would never call anything shipped without the Java goo layers to be Android. But since it was suggested, I decided to play with the idea that a platform can be "Android" even without Java...

mini2440

That particular license-avoiding argument of course was based on what I consider is a misunderstanding. While yes, lots of companies have problems with or are downright scared of the GPL and LGPL licences, but I've yet to meet a company who have any particular concerns about the licensing of the libc. I regularly meet and discuss with companies who have thoughts and worries about GPL in the kernel and they certainly often don't like *GPL in regular libraries that they linked with in their applications. I have yet to find a customer who is worried about the glibc or uClibc licenses.

In fact, most embedded Linux customers also happily run busybox that is GPL although we know from history that many companies do that in violation with the license rules, only to get the lawyers running after them.

HTC Magic

Android is what?

As far as I know Android is a trademark of some sorts, and so is Linux. If you can run an "Android" that is just a kernel and libc (and I'm not saying this is true beyond doubt because I've not heard anyone authoritative say this), isn't that then basically a very very small difference to any normal vanilla embedded Linux?

The latter examples above are even without any kind of graphical UI or user-visible interface, meaning that particular form of "Android" can just as well run your microwave or your wifi router.

Without the cruft can we change the kernel?

The Android team decided that a bunch of changes to the Linux kernel are necessary.to make Android. The changes have been debated back and forth, some of them were merged into mainline Linux only to later get backed out again while the greater part of them never even got that far. You cannot run a full-fledged Android system on a vanilla kernel: you need the features the patches introduce.

If we're not running all the java stuff do we still need those kernel patches? Is bionic made to assume one or more of them? That brings me to my next stepping stone along this path:

Without the patches can we change libc?

If we don't run the java layers, do we really have to run the bionic libc? Surely the Android kernel allows another libc and if we use another libc we don't need the Android kernel patches - unless we think they provide functionality and features that really improve our device.

Android is the new Linux?ASUS M2NPV MX Motherboard

Android as a name to describe something really already is just as drained as Linux. All these Android devices are just as much Linux devices and just as a "linux device" doesn't really tell anything about what it is actually more than what kernel it runs, neither does it seem "Android device" will mean in the long run or perhaps already.

Android however has reached some brand recognition already among mortals. I think Android is perceived as something more positive in the minds of the consumer electronic consumers than Linux is. Linux is that OS that nobody uses on their desktops, Android is that cool phone thing.

I will not be the slightest surprised if we start to see more traditional Linux systems call themselves Android in the future. Some of them possibly without changing a single line of code. Linux one day, Android the next. Who can tell the difference anyway? Is there a difference?