This document is a snapshot. LINUX the incredible shrinking OS.
I was exploring the possibility to use LINUX as OS for a project that need a nice embedded OS with TCP/IP support. Ideally it should be free of any licence what so ever. The System should support a great range of possible devices and be well tested. A sweep over the net revealed a lot RTOS, several for free, but very few supporting things like TCP/IP. To my surprise there are several different attempts to create a miniLINUX. I call it miniLINUX that means a LINUX that works with a very small amount off space either mem or bootspace.
I followed a several links e.g:
1.) LOAF - LINUX on a floppydisk
You can get an overview at Did i mentioned you can also get a 1 disk distribution from tom ? no ? but it true, tomsrtbt is a 1 disk solution.
that are ppl who try to create a full working system on a single disk 1.44MB. It uses some older software and the latest compression algorithm to preserve space. The maintainer Oyvind Kolas () (yes, the name has some Scandinavian letters) is searching for people that mirror his data. his connection is rather slow and even transferring 1.4M can take a long time. He is
also looking for people that now the inside of LINUX to help him slashing still more code.
Of cause this is called the "LINUX on A Floppy" Project.
Specially for tight memory is MuLINUX from italia.
2.) uCLINUX - microcontroller LINUX
LINUX for micros. In these case for a 68000 based PalmPilot. the interesting thing is the fact that is runs without any MMU support. The kernel seems to be fairly ready. the team is now busy making
a working libc. The maintainer Jeff Dionne and Kenneth Albanowski can be proud of there work. Having an OS that runs with and without MMU support makes development much more easy now it start to be simple making std. unix tools even for embedded systems. Now (03/99) they are working with a COLDFIRE from Motorola. The entire system is fitted on a pcb in the size of a SIMM.
If you dont like that kind of processor, you may like to read that in australia some guys are working on Pocket-LINUX. They claim there board is near ready. I will run on a StrongARM mProcessor.
3.) Embedded LINUX
When you are desperate for space than is this the right choice. ELKS is running on 8088 and 8086 based systems. I am told the entire kernel takes not more than 60k mem. The project is still in a very early stage but the team hope to get a basic version in near future. For now the system supports virtuell consoles and booting from disk.Now its time for you to look deep into your cellar pick daddy´s old 8086 or even his 8088 AT and be part of the embedded LINUX community.
There are also some university project based on that code and i guess some companies looking for a cheap OS for a embedded system will take a closer look.
LEM is short for LINUX EMbedded. it supports multi-user, networking and X11. They are stating to collect hardware (21.03.99) i hope they will find a lot. there is huge demand for TCP/IP embedded systems.
A bit outside the theme the Real-Time-LINUX can be found. RT-Systems are needed for monitoring something. That will allow LINUX to break into the nice branch of laborsystems. The maintainer of RT-LINUX is Victor Yodaiken (correct me if i am wrong). The current version builds against 2.0.35 and has even support for SMP. Till Siering is developing a fixed point library () that will satisfy most requirement for an RTOS. In an encouraging article
from the Journal of embedded systems programming LINUX is seen as a great change for all systems. an a great thread to all RTOS today. (
"never trust an heart-beat-monitor that code you dont have"
You are running an outdated system with less than 4M RAM ? desperate ? no way this LINUX offers help they claim it will work in system with less then 4 Megs. For all ppl interessting they offer also a TinyX for Xserver with less than 4Megs. (They claim that LINUX is running on a 2Meg laptop, cool )
5.) Special Projects            --- security
Trinux comes with 2-3 disks. The idea is to create a distribution that allows you to monitor networkactivity without installing a special station in between. You only need to install this in the RAM of a std. PC somewhere in your Network.
When you feel the need of a firewall sometimes a floppy will help. How ? you simply boot this stuff. I am not sure if i would trust a firewall what can boot from a floppy surely no alternative to a real one but this thing should work when you and your friends are having an install party with internet-access.      --- Router
LINUX acting as router; nothing special you may thing but that idea here is really nice. you boot from a floppy everything is in the meme of your computer (nothing to corrupt). You dont need expensive hardware ( like C* :) an old computer will do so. If something new arrives, a new floppy, a fresh reboot your network is ... whatever, nice idea.         --- XTerminal
You have some old PC laying around and you mum need some access for new recipes ? Pick this distribution and you can convert a PC into a XTerminal. You may like to read the docs at also to improve you knowledge. btw. this distribution comes on 1 Disk only !
6) Commercials  -- mainly running LINUX on embedded hardware
Some commercials also found there way into the large LINUX community. look for example:
BSE (they call it so!) has a PPC-based embedded Board to offer. They call it "ipEngine". To me it looks impressive perhaps somebody can write me more.
VME-Boards are well known in the world. Did you know that that LINUX runs on that kind of Boards ? even more synergy offer a SMP quad-G3 board with LINUX. Basicly i was shocked, if this is possible maybe we can run something like the avalon-cluster on embedded LINUX systems ?
Did you hear about the smallest webserver of all (03/99) ? Here you can buy one of them. the DIMM-PC is so small you can overlock it. it actually impressive to see a DIMM-PC ( 40x68mm ) with a Harddrive, the HD is gigantic. Actually my mouse is larger than that pc !.
The Igel-ppl are offering something i couldnt find else. LINUX booting from a FLASHROM. Basicly Igel is in the thin-client business so we can hope they will contribute some software to make LINUX boot from any ROM.
There are a host of companies that offer support for LINUX running of PC-104 Systems. PC-104 is a Industrie standard   for embedded-PC hardware. You can find a lot hardware around this System (Size: 91 x 96 mm).
MPL offers LINUX support for there PIP 5 box. It is basicly an industrial pc, with SVGA and everything you like on your PC, and it has a PC104 interface.
7) LINUX on pc/104 -- the tacobox ---
"The ESRF TacoBox LINUX for the PC104 target systems is a full featured LINUX installation and you will be familiar with it immediately" taco is a project within the esrf.

© 1998 Walter Harms, last update April 14, 1999
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