Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

Summary: A new Linux kernel tree is being introduced to addresses electronics makers' need for regular updates and long-term support.

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Building Linux devices will be easier than ever with LTSI.

Building Linux devices will be easier than ever with LTSI.

Many people use Linux every day and never know it. Indeed, they're often using Linux without even knowing they're using a computing device. For years now, Linux has been the operating system of choice for Digital Video Recorders (DVR)s, DVD players, Smart TVs, Wi-Fi access points, GPS devices, and on and on. But, there's never been a Linux kernel just for consumer electronics... until now.

At LinuxCon Europe in Prague, Czech Republic, The Linux Foundation, the non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Linux, announced that it was hosting a new project created by its Consumer Electronics (CE) workgroup: the Long Term Support Initiative (LTSI).

According to the Foundation, "The new project ... provides for both an annual release of a Linux kernel suitable for supporting the lifespan of consumer electronics products and regular updates of those releases for two years." LTSI has the backing of Hitachi, LG Electronics, NEC, Panasonic, Renesas, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba. In other words, this is a concrete plan with real and broad industry support.

LTSI will provide a common Linux base for use in a variety of consumer electronics products. Its purpose is to create and maintain a long-term industry tree, which will be stable for the typical lifetime--two to three years--of a consumer electronics product.

According to the Linux Foundation, "The LTSI tree is expected to be the usable base for the majority of embedded systems, as well as the base for ecosystem players (e.g., semiconductor vendors, set-vendors, software component vendors, distributors, and system/application framework providers). The LTSI project will combine the innovative features in newer kernels needed by CE vendors with a stable kernel, while helping those vendors get their code upstream to benefit the entire Linux community. The goal is to reduce the number of private trees currently in use in the CE industry and encourage more collaboration and sharing of development resources."

The Foundation states that this, "This new initiative is crucial because device makers are doing significant back-porting, bug testing and driver development on their own, which carries substantial cost in terms of time-to-market, as well as development and engineering effort to maintain those custom kernels. Through collaboration in this initiative, these CE vendors will reduce the duplication of effort currently prevalent in the consumer electronics industry."

LTSI should work hand-in-glove with another Linux Foundation-sponsored developers' initiative: The Yocto Project. This is an n open source collaboration project that provides templates, tools and methods to help programmers create custom Linux-based systems for embedded products regardless of the hardware architecture.

The LTSI project will also be encouraging companies to share their device code in the broader Linux kernel. Greg Kroah-Hartman, a leading Linux kernel developer and SUSE software engineer, said "I am very happy to be working with the LTSI group to help them get their device specific code into the mainline kernel.org tree through this initiative."

"The CE industry has leveraged Linux to reduce costs and speed time to market. Now they are taking the next step to reduce the costly duplication of effort at work maintaining custom kernels," said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation in a statement. "LTSI is an important effort because it will allow vendors to share the work of maintaining a common kernel for the consumer electronics industry, resulting in more use of Linux in the industry and increasing contributions from CE makers to the advancement of Linux."

With so many smart CE devices already based on Linux, I expect the immediate effect will be to enable developers and their companies to speed up and improve product development since they won't need to waste time on maintaining their own Linux kernels. At the same time, I hope this well reduce the cost of these devices for customers. Anyway you look at it, LTSI should be a major win for vendors, programmers and end-users.

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Linux device image by mightyohm, , CC 2.0.

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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12 comments
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  • RE: Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

    "[i]LTSI will provide a common Linux base for use in a variety of consumer electronics products. Its purpose is to create and maintain a long-term industry tree, which will be stable for the typical lifetime???two to three years???of a consumer electronics product.[/i]"

    So ... does this mean that [b][i]someday[/i][/b] I may actually be able to buy a "[b][i]universal[/i][/b]" remote that will actually control all my TV/DVD, etc., devices?

    ... okay ... just kidding ...
    Rick_R
  • Fractured nature of Linux

    It's like herding cats. Developers want to work on projects that are fun. Writing drivers isn't all that much fun, so the vendors must pay someone to write them.

    The freedom means it's difficult to find the right people for initiatives like this. Linux is so fractured that any thought of consistency is a challange.
    Cynical99
    • RE: Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

      @Cynical99
      Of course you're assuming that most of the work will be done by programmers outside the industry. If this takes off, it's almost certain that the vast majority of code contributions will wind up being made by programmers working for the same companies that are then implementing the code on their devices.
      brendan@...
      • so, you expect the vendor to put their work into the kernel?

        @brendan@...
        Well, some may, but most won't. It's a competitive thing. If I put my crown jewels of design in the Linux kernel, any competitor can see what I'm working on before I'm ready. That whole change management process requires lead time and I may not want my competitors know my plans until I'm ready to spring the whole thing on the market.

        No, most will not participate. The same discussion happened a few years ago and you can see how far that one went, it died a quick death then and it'll die the same quick death now.
        Cynical99
    • RE: Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

      @Cynical99 Exactly, vendors currently write their own drivers, and then to get a feature of a newer kernel, they must update their driver to work with the new kernel, or add the new feature to the older kernel.
      LTSI encourages vendors to add their drivers to the kernel mainstream, meaning they can update to a new kernel, and their driver will already be there.

      No need to find "the right people", they are already working for the vendors.

      Linux isn't fractured, it is one long string of consistent versions. For those of us that understand version control, Linux is easy.
      anothercanuck
      • Lack of understanding in the Linux community is legendary

        @anothercanuck
        OK, you expect me to take my hard earned driver and drop it into Linux for the world to see, copy, and in general steal from me where if I keep it separate I have some protections and come control over distribution?

        Wow, you guys really don't have a clue!
        Cynical99
  • RE: Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

    Another failed linux iniative. Remember meego and how far that went? Or how about those 4 linux distros that tried to form an alliance? Don't hear anything out of them now. Its funny, every time there is some linux initiative it always fails. Given history we can say the same for LTSI. Its especially funny using the word support and linux in the same title. Linux support consists of posting on a message board and waiting days for someone to respond with 'RTFM n00b!'.
    LoverockDavidson_-24231404894599612871915491754222
    • RE: Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

      @LoverockDavidson_ Maybe you should stop using "Linux sucks" as the first line of your posts.
      anothercanuck
  • RE: Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

    Yep. Every time my PVR stuffs up I say "Bloody Linux"
    tonymcs@...
  • RE: Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

    I don't understand the problem. I have built so many systems which use Linux and I never had any problems. If it's a heavy system and I use, say, Debian, I simply write the binary and source CD/DVDs and file them with the documentation for that project. If I use LFS/CLFS I store the sources, scripts, license files, etc on a CD and file it. If someone needs support for a particular product, I can find all the relevant information. If some software component needs updating I can do that with minimal fuss. I can't say the same for instruments I've built which involve WinXP/Embedded - they're a nightmare to work with as computers age and are replaced by models not supported by WinXP and so on.
    zoroaster
  • here is a clue

    "OK, you expect me to take my hard earned driver and drop it into Linux for the world to see, copy, and in general steal from me where if I keep it separate I have some protections and come control over distribution?

    Wow, you guys really don't have a clue! "

    Are you selling hardware or software?

    Know of any driver software markets?

    Having freely available drivers, widely distributed opens up new uses for your hardware!
    wkulecz
  • RE: Consumer Electronics Linux Initiative Starts

    I, like most consumers, want things to WORK. Anything that improves out of the box working is an improvement. An expensive gadget that requires a customer service call does not make me happy, and costs the supplier money. This initiative should improve the situation for those companies taking advantage of it and the end users buying their products. I do buy from those sources that supply stuff that works w/o fuss, and prowl their websites to evaluate fixes/updates available before I buy. A $10 remote or a $1200 copier, all the same. I will not buy if I gotta spend hours or days chasing drivers, UIs, etc. And do it all over when I up-grade my OS or whatever.
    olddogv