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Embedded.com: Is Linux Worth the Effort?

Jun 23, 2003, 11:00 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Niall Murphy)

"I was originally skeptical about how much Linux had to offer the embedded community. I warmed to it after a positive experience on one project, but further consideration has left me somewhat skeptical once again. In this column, I share what I learned during that project. My hope is that when you're done reading, you'll have learned something about how Linux can be put to best use in embedded systems.

"Because so many RTOSes are written with portability in mind—due to the wide variety of hardware platforms used in embedded systems—performing a port to a new board sometimes takes only a few hours. And porting an RTOS is often just a matter of porting to one particular microcontroller. A microcontroller with a number of memory models may require a port for each memory model, and the port may be tied to a particular compiler, but that's the extent of the variation.

"Porting Linux is a more complicated process. Linux expects mass storage and an array of device drivers for peripherals, such as network cards, to be considered a full implementation. Such a Linux implementation would be more powerful than an easier-to-port RTOS, but the extra power is mostly in the area of storage and networking. If your system doesn't require those capabilities, you gain little from the effort you put into the port..."

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