Embedded Systems September 2000 Vol13_10

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Emulatorsl I predict that in five years time most embedded developers will not find themselves using any more open source products than they do today .... going to be a guest at a Red Hat party. And why should th ey, they a re all trying to innovate in ways that make th e ir product different enough to be a ble to make money out of it. Did I say diffet·e nt? Oops, I meant to say proprie ta ry. Unless th e o th e r m< uot· Linux playet·s buy into EL/ IX, it is more likely to cause fragmenta- ti on of Linux than to preve nt it, and so far Red Hat has not convinced any maj or playe rs to publicly come on board. On th e questi o n of whe th e r embedded software for custom ha rd- ware can be re leased a open source and wheth e r th ere i an advantage fo r the consumer, Mr. Gatliff makes the va lid point that having the source may allow a techni cal customer to track down a bug more quickl y, or more accurate ly. This is a mode l that will find favor with few. Are we encouraging suppliers to push th e onus of findin g bug · onto th e con- sume r, ra the r than leaving it with the supplie r? I wonder where that will end. Maybe you do not need to docu- ment a devi ce's behavior if the cus- tome r can me rely read the source to fi gure out how it works. In any case the debate on re leasing this kind of device-specific code is futile-in the real wo rld it is not happening, mainly due to concerns of company secrecy and competition. From Mr. Gatliff's description you would assume that the open source products mentioned we re assumed to be of higher quali ty than the comme r- cial equivalent, or that they preceded the commercial competition in some way. But if you look at the Web site for the Coda file system, you will find it described as an experimental fil e sys- tem. In more detailed documentation it sta tes "th e rough edges, which inevi tably come with re earch systems, are slowly being smoothed out." While tl1is is a su·aightforward description of a product in its early stages, it is appar- ent that tJ1is is not something you can depend on fo r industrial strength development. Mosix is anothe r product men- tioned, but the latest version is 0.97.6. Can you take risks on a product which is not even considered a 1.0 release? These two cases underline a common problem with open source develop- ment. They have great difficulty get- ting releases o ut th e door. Open source proj ects L end to be so engi- neering-driven and technology-orient- ed that the feature list grows endlessly. This leads LO siLUations like Mozilla, which has been waiting two years for a release since it became open source. At the time of this writing tJ1e next release elate is uncerta in. I will fini sh with a glance into my crystal ball. While I am genuinely thankful to the free software move- ment for tJ1e tools they have made available so fa r, r predict mat in five years time most embedded developers will not find themselves using any more open source products than tJ1ey do today, and the number of such products, which can reasonably com- pete witl1 fee-based products, will not have significantly increased. esp Niall Murphy has been writing software f or user interf aces and medical systems f ar ten years. He is the author of Front Panel: Designing Softwa re fo r Embedded User Inte rfaces . Murphy's training and consulting business is based in Galway, ireland. He welcomes feedback and can be Teached at nmu· rphy@jJanelsoft .corn. Bill Gatliff is an independent consul- tant sjJecializing in free softwa·re tools and rnent. He is a member of the Embedded Systems Conference Advisory Board and a frequent contributor to Embedded Systems Programming magazine. Bill welcomes comments via e-mail to bgat@ojJen-wid- techniques for embedded systems deuelojJ- · Embedded Systems Programming SEPTEMBER 2ooo 93 Celbo USA: 1-800-833 4084 Tel: 314-830 4084 Fax: 314-830 4083

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