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Embedded Linux goes Open Source

Embedded Linux goes Open Source

DeviceVM's Splashtop boot screen on the Asus P5E3 WiFi AP@n

DeviceVM, the maker of Splashtop software which features embedded Linux "Fast Boot" products like featured in the Asus P5E3 Deluxe WiFi-AP @n has just released the source code to its software under GPL.

The software is loaded onto a hard-wired USB device in the PC which then gives the option of booting into the main OS or the Splashtop client - which currently offers basic Skype and Firefox functions. We highlighted in the review that allowing program installation so we could customise it with other software such as a media player or email, perhaps, would make it much more useful.

It looks like Splashtop hopes the coding community will jump at the chance to expand this for the company, providing there's enough product popularity to get it off the ground.

Unfortunately for DeviceVM, Phoenix (the company that makes virtually every consumer and OEM PC BIOS on the market) has just launched its embedded Hyperspace application that goes down a similar route of "Fast Booting OS". It looks like DeviceVM suddenly came across a rather large hurdle for mass adoption.

In order to inquire about what's coming up for Splashtop, we managed to grab Sergei Krupenin from DeviceVM for a little while to nail down what the future will hold for it.

He told bit-tech that "there are a couple new motherboards with Splashtop targeted for release at the end of the year, but we cannot announce the specifics until the OEM gives us the green light. At the same time, all the major manufacturers are talking to DeviceVM about doing laptop and desktop products for next year.

"Another thing is that we feel our open platform (with a soon to be released SDK) also allows consumers to do more with Splashtop than with other solutions.

"For the P5E3 motherboard, Splashtop was designed to reside within the limited non-volatile on-board memory. While it is a restricted environment that may vary in size for other models, additional programs can be accommodated and we are working on enabling that through an SDK. Since speed and security are two of our core value propositions, the main challenge we are addressing is how to create an extensible environment without slowing down Splashtop or opening vulnerabilities.

"The consumer feedback after the launch tells us that people want to add applications such as IM or music playback to Splashtop - just as you pointed out. So this is a major direction. We are planning to start by offering selected applications for download through our web site, initially within a Beta program, and later open this up."


Thankfully, DeviceVM recognises that security is as important as an open system, but it's certainly a very difficult balance to achieve. Contrastingly, Phoenix is going to heavily lock down Hyperspace to foreign intervention and only allow updates from secure servers.

When asked about the competition from Phoenix, Mr. Krupenin said that "the competition is good, as it helps educate consumers about the availability of “Fast Boot” offerings, and also encourages manufacturers to bring products to market. We are interested to see what Phoenix has in store. In the meantime the P5E3 is already out and the pipeline of Splashtop-enabled products is growing."

Unfortunately the Asus P5E3 Deluxe WiFi AP @n is a seriously expensive motherboard, so we asked Asus what else is in the pipe that's a bit more consumer wallet friendly. We were told that there was nothing specifically being made just yet because there are many economic factors that go into a motherboard design.

The personal opinion of the Asus representative was that it suited home theatre PCs (HTPCs) more, where he echoed our appeal of a fast booting machine for music and video. However, he was quick to point out that the team currently working on ExpressGate (Asus' branding of Splashtop) had limited resources. Therefore, this and other complementary additions like a remote control were, at best, still idealist ideas. In addition, music and video codecs require licences to be purchased for some commercial codecs, adding to the cost of the unit and making it potentially even more infeasible.

It seems as though this is heading in the right direction, but it depends how much the development community take a shining to it and what consumer boards subsequently offer it. We could be left with a Catch-22 situation where no one bothers to buy the boards because there's no development for them or the program management is too difficult for the layman consumer, so no one bothers in developing for it. A cynic could argue that the guys at DeviceVM just want others to do their job for them, instead of making these extra programmes themselves - simply making it open source doesn't create a community.

Many thanks for Asus and DeviceVM for giving us their input. We'll have to see what the future has in store - we just hope it doesn't take too long.

Is the fast booting embedded Linux a great option or a nice idea you'll never use? Let us know in the forums.

13 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Cupboard 21st November 2007, 18:12 Quote
In principle its a great idea, but I don't know what its use would be aside from "I'm just going out but i need to check on...". IMO, people will want a proper media player, with the option of recording if the computer is connected to TV broadcasts, which would also mean that if you did decide you wanted to do some proper stuff on the computer you wouldn't have to reboot.

If you look at the sleep feature which is the default option on Vista which allows booting from and off state (though not actually off) in about 10s, then I can't really see this going anywhere fast.

On the other hand, anything then gets Linux more into everyday life and away from "Enthusiasts" etc is good, though at this stage that looks unlikely (price).
p3n 21st November 2007, 18:42 Quote
Would be nice for use ina a vehicle, I always thought it'd be neat to have a PC in the car but aside from power issues boot time worrying about harddrives + vibrations always made me wonder.
DXR_13KE 21st November 2007, 19:31 Quote
the more open source the better.
Tyinsar 21st November 2007, 21:12 Quote
Sounds like and interesting idea and I hope it works out - but if past history is any guide...

LinuxBIOS anyone?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cupboard
In principle its a great idea, but I don't know what its use would be aside from "I'm just going out but i need to check on...". IMO, people will want a proper media player, with the option of recording if the computer is connected to TV broadcasts, which would also mean that if you did decide you wanted to do some proper stuff on the computer you wouldn't have to reboot.

If you look at the sleep feature which is the default option on Vista which allows booting from and off state (though not actually off) in about 10s, then I can't really see this going anywhere fast.

On the other hand, anything then gets Linux more into everyday life and away from "Enthusiasts" etc is good, though at this stage that looks unlikely (price).
Quoted for Truth (though I'm sure my Vista machine comes out of sleep in quite a bit less than 10 seconds)
DLoney 21st November 2007, 21:13 Quote
too bad microsoft cant build a WMC app for this. Being able to boot straight into the Windows Media Center without having to load windows first would be great.
Cupboard 21st November 2007, 21:44 Quote
I think what would be wonderful (though I have no idea how it could be done) is to have a simple (possibly Linux based) OS that started up instantly, whilst in the background your main OS started up. Then you could just switch over. The problem would be if you had started a conversation in Skype, it would be hard to migrate it over.
Bindibadgi 22nd November 2007, 09:07 Quote
Virtualisation ftw!
steveo_mcg 22nd November 2007, 09:41 Quote
The custom distro Asus have done for their mini laptop, is that available any where? I think that would be more interesting than this tbh.
yakyb 22nd November 2007, 10:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveo_mcg
The custom distro Asus have done for their mini laptop, is that available any where? I think that would be more interesting than this tbh.

This one for those that havnt seen it

to me it looks like a clever more full version of PPC made in Linux which is a fantstic thing and i might very well buy the next version of the product
steveo_mcg 22nd November 2007, 10:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by yakyb
This one for those that havnt seen it

to me it looks like a clever more full version of PPC made in Linux which is a fantstic thing and i might very well buy the next version of the product

PPC? Sorry googling that mostly brings up powerPC ports.
Anakha 22nd November 2007, 15:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DLoney
too bad microsoft cant build a WMC app for this. Being able to boot straight into the Windows Media Center without having to load windows first would be great.
Well, MythTV runs under Linux. If you could get the frontend running within this system, you'd have an instant-on Media PC (Well, you'd have to have a backend elsewhere on the network, but that's not too much hassle).
completemadness 22nd November 2007, 19:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anakha
Well, MythTV runs under Linux. If you could get the frontend running within this system, you'd have an instant-on Media PC (Well, you'd have to have a backend elsewhere on the network, but that's not too much hassle).
Sounds like a pretty cool idea to me ... aslong as the Flash drive is big enough

then again, Debian, Mythtv, X and some kind of display manger is gonna be pretty small
Sparrowhawk 23rd November 2007, 01:55 Quote
I can see this being very big in the enthusiast market. Imagine upon a drive failure, having recovery tools right in the embedded Linux?
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