Thursday, August 31, 2006

Embedded Debian gadget of the day

We often hear the most stories about all the cool multimedia entertainment devices running Linux, but here's a "real" embedded device without all the glitter: Embedian's EBC-series. There's no single purpose those have designed for, so you can pick your box and put into use. I can see various amounts of eg. industrial automation you could do with this device, and do it with a fast start - everything is ready for attaching eg. measurement devices. Also the tools for controlling eg. sensors, robotics or for analyzing data might also be readily available in some open source project already, or could be implemented on top of some more general open source solutions more easily than developing from scratch. The devices seem to have designed with heavy environment requirements in mind, so those are definitely not the choice for home environment, but offer quite nice amount of opportunities in industrial environments.

Of course, stuff like this has been available before, but combining Debian with low-power devices (max. 2W) like the EBC-series' models should give a good run for the money for any proprietary solutions with regards to flexibility and price.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

About the last bastions...

Related to the my first post, open source graphics drivers seem (Intel) to be having some boost (AMD) just now. This can only be a good thing, especially if the AMD (which bought ATI) part really happens. Closed graphics drivers are a pain to use, install or integrate in an otherwise open system like Linux. It would help if there was one other Big gfx chip vendor besides Intel that releases high-quality open source drivers. I believe it when I see it - the MIT (X/DRI part) and GPL (kernel part) licensed drivers with full support for all features. There were rumors about XGI releasing all of its drivers as open source, but nothing has been heard since ATI bought a part of XGI. AMD is a different thing, though, because AMD is competing directly with Intel.

Sony has got an embedded Linux

Sony Mylo looks like a nice Linux device. I have to emphasize the word looks, since the device looks really nifty, at least if the point was to make bit toy-like device with a nicely embedded qwerty keyboard. Sony seems to experiment with different kind of new entertainment devices, but it's hard to say what people are really interested in using it. Mylo can't connect to other devices via Bluetooth, and its display is similar in resolution to what's on my GSM phone currently. And there are just too many half-baked music player solutions already on the market, Mylo also has small storage space and plays only proprietary audio formats.

The device is using Wind River's embedded Linux system, which apparently is somehow related to Red Hat. Interesting. I wonder what's the state of openness of the Wind River Linux and products using it, if compared to eg. MontaVista Linux (products based on which are currently mostly closed except for the parts absolutely required to be open) or Nokia's Maemo (with which Nokia actively works _with_ the community on many fronts, though which still has some strictly closed parts, too).

More and more companies are jumping on the Linux train. Now if only they would also jump the open source & community train, instead of trying to handle Linux like an old-fashioned proprietary software.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Devices and open media formats

While the digital video and audio world is largely governed by more or less restricted formats like MP3 audio, MPEG-2/4 video, Windows Media, AAC etc., the openness of available truly open and royalty-free formats does not scare everyone. Among the interesting developments in both mobile and non-mobile devices I've find for example the following:
  • Iwod G10 sounds like an interesting device, at least as a concept, that can play FLAC files in addition to MP3 files, and also is able to play Nintendo games. Too bad the memory is expandable my only 1GB cards - hardly enough to play much lossless-compressed audio.
  • Volvo's Digital Jukebox supposedly provides your car with perfect-quality FLAC music too.
  • Olive Symphony looks like the most high-end device currently on the market that's just for playing digital music.
  • And last, as closest to my personal usage field, are the great music players by iAudio - all supporting at least Ogg Vorbis and (in the bigger devices) FLAC. iAudio 6 might be the perfect combination currently - small size, all important open music formats supported and enough storage capacity for moderate uses (4GB).
A lot more can be found on's wiki (though it's mainly about Ogg Vorbis support). The main problem still is that AFAIK a very large majority of portable music player sales are governed by Ipod, which supports only restricted formats. I do appreciate the folks doing eg. iPod Linux, but I tend to think there's no support if there's no built-in support. The hardware manufacturers should start to stand behind open formats, and stop fighting each other on who has the most dominating restricted format they can ask license fees from. For example, even the largely likeable Nokia 770 lacks the support for Ogg audio and video, which means the manufacturer for some reason or other does not want to support "openness" in some fronts yet, while it clearly is very open and standards-endorsing in some other fronts. But Nokia is not in the music or video business as such, and business-wise it's always easiest to just support the mainstream formats, restricted or not. It's the pure audio-video entertainment device manufacturers that should start to support open formats first.

As a sidenote, it was nice to see this year's Assembly's video broadcasts in completely open Ogg Theora video format. I bet they have had some need for heavy hardware though, since unlike eg. Ogg Vorbis lossy audio codec and FLAC lossless audio codec, Theora is not really a completely optimized codec at this point, though the latest release improved a bit. But with Fluendo's very fluent (eh) combination of Cortado Java applet and Flumotion, it's now really easy to provide open media streams even though the battling proprietary operating systems (Windows and Mac OS) do not support anything open. This is how it should be - giving the open option to anyone as easily as possibly, and then at some point people could notice that why they need to use Java applets for playing something that plays in any free software operating system (like Linux or the BSDs) without any problems.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Free software - for the people

Greetings, fellow human beings. Here you have a new blog about happenings in the free/libre/open-source software, intertwined with the communities around it. It's an interesting world with no borders, consisting of people and companies believing eg. in the success of open-source as a development and business model, and/or in the general virtues of this way of developing the information society around us. I'm happy to see so many companies trying to (and sometimes succeeding to) find their way of embracing FOSS, or Free and Open Source Software, in their businesses. I'm especially happy to see new products that are not just "running Linux", but also being developed together with the community so that both the product and the components it uses are better than they would otherwise be.

I'm a computer user since ca. 1985, and have a M.Sc. degree from Helsinki University of Technology. Nowadays I work in a company called Nomovok, which develops open source based embedded solutions - suits me well. On spare time, I'm running the Ubuntu Finland site (an Ubuntu Linux information site for the Finnish people), translating some open source programs to Finnish, representing Finnish Wikipedia as a media contact and doing various bits of other stuff all around.

I'm interested in developments of the Ubuntu Linux, and related to it the fantastic Debian project with its GNU/Linux operating system on which among else Ubuntu is based. Furthermore, I'm interested in the open source and open format developments covering the last bastions of closed, proprietary desktop software - gcj/GNU Classpath (to replace Sun Java), media codecs and Dirac (to replace WMV, MOV, MPEG-4, MP3 and other restricted formats), Gnash (to replace Adobe Flash player), DRI (to provide open source 3D drivers for all cards) etc. I like it more to celebrate the advancements in this free/open world, than to dwell on the negative things happening in our everyday lives (and especially beneath it). There are fortunately pages and people I can support who are trying to make this new digital world a better, more equal place for both people and businesses (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Software Foundation (also the FSF Europe),, Open formats, ...)

So, stay tuned for posts about libre software, the communities around it and products that utilize the software & participate in the communities.