Going Beyond the Linux Kernel
It's Widely Known and Widely Used
Linux has gained an impressive following in certain areas. It is ever increasing in popularity on PCs in homes around the world, and it has taken the academic community by storm.
Time has proven it is easier to find and hire software engineers with Linux experience than it is to find experience with any other embedded system. Every resume I've reviewed in the past several months has advertised "working with Linux" as a job description or skill. The fact is, bringing contributing individuals onto a project is easier since we've moved to Linux than it ever was before.
I'll take this one step further and say it's easier to find and hire a contributing individual to an embedded software project than it ever was before. I manage an embedded development team, and when I started, the average work experience of the folks in my group was 12 years. That was the accepted sign of a good embedded software engineer - years of experience.
Nothing beats experience when it comes to "low-level" software. The experience of working with different hardware in different applications brings out a deep understanding of the dos and don'ts necessary for a successful embedded project.
But, our team now has flexibility. The mystique of the proprietary state machine running on the processor core is removed. The unfamiliarity of kernels only talked about in college is gone. A very new engineer can join the team and work in a "cool" Linux environment that is familiar to them. He can be working with tools and commands he knows - that he has done homework with.
The embedded software architecture and design is done by the seasoned engineers. But, the new gals (and guys!) can be adding modules and entire features to their first project. They don't need the oversight and mentoring that I myself went through. They are already familiar with the environment, with Linux, and can see where the software is going. Even the 'young' engineers contribute to an embedded project.
Linux Continues to Evolve
The open source movement taking place today is progressing features and functionality into the Linux kernel at an incredible rate. Beyond the kernel there are packages.
There are dozens of Websites out there from the .org - open source communities. These Websites contain hundreds of packages ready and waiting to be incorporated into commercial products.
These packages are the real advantage to embedded Linux. A kernel is a kernel - basically a task scheduler and some resources. Purists will argue the pros and cons to every kernel in existence today and in the future. But no other software platform has the easily accessible add-ons you can find today for Linux.
These packages are what give the system integrators and application programmers the time-to-market advantage they are so desperate for. The packages provide protocols, APIs, libraries, interfaces and managed objects complete and ready to use. The integrator can take advantage of these packages from platform to platform - allowing for a flexible end application that can be quickly manipulated to meet a specific demand.
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