Saturday, October 15, 2005

Linux for mobile devices-its getting faster

Recently, Linux devices seem to seriously cut into established Palm OS and Windows Mobile markets. Now, even the PSP gerts a Linux counterpart. The unit currently called GP2x will be a linux based oportable gamer console that somehow resembles the Zodiac produced by Tapwave:
A small picture of the GP2x
Anyways, the specs of the unit look nice. The GP2x will be capable to:

  • Show jpg and bmp images
  • Play mp3, ogg and DivX stuff
  • Support MAME, SNES, Genesis, PC Engine etc
  • Work on 2 AA cells
  • Do USB2 connections
  • Support SDL
  • ...

The hardware also looks nice. It it powerede by two ARM cores(Nintendo Ds anyone??), has 64 MB of RAM and a TFT QVGA screen.
Further information is available at the manufacturers website:
BTW, this blends in nicely to the OSDL announcement that they will now invest more time and effort ito getting Linux to mobile phones.


Blogger Tom Frauenhofer said...

The biggest challenges to Linux on cell phones are still (a) start-up/boot-up time and (b) user experience. Palm OS on Linux could be a solution to the user experience; start-up is where a lot more work needs to be done.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GP2x- zodiac. Unfortunaltely the zod never made it to europe (except GB) but I think it was ahead of its time: a PDA & mobile gaming platform in one. Unfortunately there were not enough people that needed this functionality and not all the anounced games made it to the platform, which seemed to have caused the end for this great piece of hardware. Well, now the GP2x is obviously dropping the PDA-functionality and aimes directly at those typical users, that just want an entertainment device. BUT, unlike the PSP, this platform will have a hard time to provide the games -as was a problem for the zod, which made its effort as a gaming device not so obvious for most consumers.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Tam Hanna said...

isnt it easy to optimize startup time? You can IMHO(no linux expert whatsoever) have a init ram disk that is just copied into the RAM of the box, or you could always keep the OS running on some sort of deep sleep mode where the cpu wakes up once a sec or so(you need that anyways for the protocols)... .
I wonder how many times my Palm actually reboots.

About he GP2x: most game consoles from small companies have/had the problem of not getting enough games. However, I beleive that Tapwave would have fared better if they took the approach our GP2x ppl take-have emulators ready right away!

Best regards
Tam Hanna

2:42 PM  
Anonymous dmccunney said...

Properly speaking, "Linux" is the OS kernel, responsible for memory and process management and the like. It communicates with the hardware through drivers which are loaded by the OS kernel and linked into the kernel's address space when the system is booted. All of the GNU commands and utilities that come with a Linux distribution are add-ons, but aren't really "Linux"
per se. (Indeed, most of them have been ported to other OSes as well, and you can get a complete set of GNU utilities for Windows from the Cygwin project.)

The challenge with Linux is that it's a monolithic system. It needs to be slimmed down and have drivers for the hardware it will run on, but *not* have drivers for all the othr stuff normally included.

This is one reason why serious Linux users normally rebuild the kernel when installing a distribution, to remove all of the stuff *not* needed for what they do, and include anything not there by default that they do need.

The challenge with Linux on a handheld is kind of the opposite faced by PalmOS. PalmOS began as an OS intended for embedded operation on a small, low powered device with minimal RAM, and has had problems in scaling *up* as devices became more powerful. Linux began as an attempt to create a free, open source clone of Unix, which historically powered large multiuser systems, and the issue is to slim it *down* to only what is required for the embedded application.

There are also issues specific to embedded use, such as seperating code (which can be in ROM) and data (which is changeable and must be in RAM). Some readers may remember DR-DOS, an MS-DOS clone from Digital Research, which achieved some market penetration back before Windows ate the world. That product began as a solution for DR corporate customers who wanted a ROMable version of MS-DOS. At the time, MS-DOS was not ROMable due to code/data seperation issues, and Microsoft had not created a version that addressed the problem. DR made one, it worked, and they thought that there might be a market among end users as well...

I don't see any reason why Linux can't run on handhelds, and indeed, it does: the Sharp Zaurus runs Linux, and some geeks are tickled by being able to launch a bash shell on thier PDA. As handhelds start getting 64 and 128MB of RAM, and 400mhz ARM processors, the underlying hardware is powerful enough.

9:36 PM  

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