Linux Inside… Linux Everywhere!

Hi everyone… (Is there someone there? I hope so!). Last week I had to face the college exams season, yeah, hard stuff, so I had to study a lot and, of course, I hadn’t time to post (not one minute) 😦 but guess what??? here I’m again! 😛

This time I want to talk about the quiet way Linux or GNU/Linux or FLOSS Linux or whatever you wanna call it, is spreading around the world. But I’m not talking about the desktop or server market, oh no, I’m talking about the invisible world of the embedded systems, I mean, all those gadgets running Linux that you could be using everyday but you just don’t know it; your wifi router, your cell phone, your pda, your game console or maybe another little closed box sitting somewhere in your house, who knows? if it’s an electronic gadget, then, there’s a chance that Linux is running inside.

The idea about this post started some days ago, when Mom bought something called TiVo, I guess you already heard about it, if you don’t, it is the pioneer of the digital video recorder (DVR), so, now Mom can record all the soap operas she can’t watch when she is working or shopping far away from home and then, when she comes back at night, she can watch all the TV shows she missed. Yes, handy stuff. So, I decided to look for more information about TiVo in Wikipedia, and it was when I realized that it runs Linux! Pretty curious thing, I mean, Mom uses Linux but she doesn’t know it!

Some people say that “Linux is hard to use for end users“, but I think that people can use it as long as nobody tells them they are using it. In fact, I know a business in my city which offers Internet access using Linux and most people don’t know it. The trick is simple, they installed Ubuntu with a Windows XP theme in every computer, so, if you are a basic user who just read your mail, write a letter or check out your Facebook account using a browser, well, you wont’ notice you are using Linux. The first time I went there, I said to the manager: “Hey! all these boxes run Linux, it’s great!” and he answered me: “Quiet kid! nobody knows it, that’s the success of the business; please, keep the secret“.

The curious thing about the people’s fear of Linux, is that their enemy (I mean Linux) is becoming invisible to them, so, every new day, it’s harder to know when and where you are working with it. How many people know what’s behind Google’s search engine? Everybody uses it, but too few understand that the large cluster doing the magic is made of Linux servers.

Now let’s talk about small gadgets, what about cellphones? If you have a G1 (the Google’s product), the software inside your phone is Android, which is nothing else but another version of Linux. Even more, sneaking around the Internet, I found out that with less than a year in the market, as of March, the G1 already got the 5% of the US web traffic market-share.
More on my investigation: On 2005, Nokia launched the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, not a cellphone, but maybe the pretext to start thinking about including Linux in their products. Now, they have Maemo (a Debian based distro) and they bought Trolltech, so they have Qt. The equation is complete! They can do it!
Unfortunately, I was looking for Linux-based cell phones in the Nokia website, but I couldn’t find one. Do you know of one? I’d appreciate if you let me know.
Definitely, FLOSS is introducing its roots in every pie of the techno-industry. I have to be fair saying that even iPhone OS (a pretty closed source product) has a past related with an open Unix version (BSD). Right now, with all the big players of the phone’s industry pointing to Linux, I ask to myself: What will happen with Windows CE? What’s your bet? 😛

Looking around for more information about gadgets using Linux, I found this pretty place called “Linux Devices“. Please, take a look there. I got shocked when I saw the list of toys and let me tell you: it’s endless!!! A lot of small boards and cards support Linux, which means, you can create any kind of little electronic device: routers, switches, ip cams, you name it.
Did you name robots? No? well, you should, because they already do and they look handsome! Who knows? Maybe some day, we’ll send satellites to the space with Linux inside, or maybe we already did it! 😉

To finish, I must say the future’s trend won’t be different, ¿Have you heard about the GENIVI Alliance?, well, me neither until today. Quoting from the official website:

GENIVI is a non-profit industry alliance committed to driving the broad adoption of an In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) reference platform. GENIVI will accomplish this by aligning requirements, delivering reference implementations, offering certification programs and fostering a vibrant open source IVI community.

About the platform, they say:

It consists of linux-based core services, middleware, and open application layer interfaces and establishes a foundation upon which automobile manufacturers and their suppliers can add their differentiated products and services.

And who is behind this proposal? Let me tell you: BMW Group, Wind River, Intel, GM, PSA, Delphi, Magneti-Marelli, and Visteon. Small group, right?

I have to say the future seems open. After this post, I look around my room and I can’t stop feeling that Linux is surrounding me, but not in my box, neither in my laptop… it’s beyond, it’s in the air… as a fresh smell of freedom 🙂

Ok, fair enough for now. I need to keep studying for my exams. Keep in touch kids!


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