How to build a GUI for a toaster

Having recently missed the opportunity to attend Embedded World in Nuremburg, I have found myself somewhat unnaturally fascinated by the factors governing embedded software application development this month.

Having recently missed the opportunity to attend Embedded World in Nuremburg, I have found myself somewhat unnaturally fascinated by the factors governing embedded software application development this month.

Specifically, I find myself questioning whether open source expands and improves the development processes available to engineers working in the embedded space, where devices will ‘lock-down’ the software post deployment and in many cases not provide a gateway for upgrades, patches or improvements.

Could it be argued that open source software (OSS) is more fluid in the sense that it is more bleeding edge? What I mean is, if a piece of OSS is particularly ‘developmental’ then could it provide more flexibility if the embedded deployment is in a new prototype device not previously blessed with sophisticated on board technology.

Say you want to put a GUI in a toaster – that’s the kind of unproven prototype area I’m talking about. If you did want to put a GUI in a toaster, would you use Windows? I’m guessing no.

Embedded presents huge challenges when it comes to provisioning for binaries and drivers, so it is better to steer clear of proprietary here as sluggish vendors may not react as quickly or be as flexible as the community and the OSS eco-system which you will instead have the option to turn to.

There will be integration challenges in any project of course, but again will OSS help with this issue?

Embedded is arguably ‘especially tough and exacting’ (my words, not someone else’s), so does the community present a better channel for exchange and interchange – surely a very useful resource if you are missing the skills to develop certain code blocks or components no?

Is there quite simply more innovation in OSS – and that this is inherently a good thing while embedded breaks new ground by targeting toasters, telephones and tubs of taramasalata for additional software augmentation? Many a big vendor would pooh-pooh such a notion saying that you can’t match the resources and spend of their R&D facility and that that’s where the innovation is.

I’m looking for opinions, as I need to write more on this subject. All feedback on OSS, toasters and even taramasalata will be appreciatively received.

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