Embedded systems, the once-sleepy backwater of information technology, are now emerging as a multibillion-dollar industry that is already pervading our everyday existences and changing our lives. Around the world, "smart devices" are insinuating themselves into everyone's daily routine: You drive to work in your electronically controlled car or ride a digitally guided commuter train, take a call on your mobile phone, make copies at the office, sit in on a digital conference call, and then go home and watch a movie from your cable box or DVD player. If you look around you, you'll realize that 50 to 100 embedded computers touch your life every day.
Linux is taking this world of embedded and pervasive computing by storm. Once dominated by proprietary and obscure operating systems, tools, and applications, embedded designs today benefit from the transparency and functionality of open-source software, especially Linux. Even conservative estimates show embedded Linux garnering up to half of all new embedded designs by the end of 2002.
In my role at MontaVista Software, I have the pleasure of talking to thousands of embedded developers and of sneaking glimpses into their varied projects. In this context I first met Dr. Craig Hollabaugh at LinuxWorld in New York in 2001. In the course of his writing this book, I had the pleasure of his company several more times and numerous chats by phone.
I find Craig's approach both sensible and comprehensive. His choice of an application to run the fabled Silverjack winter resort both recalls the "meat and potatoes" of the embedded applications space (control and instrumentation) and launches into today's hot new areas of pervasive computing (embedded Web interfacing, multimedia, and messaging). His survey of available embedded hardware and key interface technologies and his step-by-step account of the embedded Linux development process provide invaluable signposts for aspiring system designers.
Craig's team of trailblazing engineers confronted the daunting task of acquiring and using embedded Linux development tools and deployment components. The Silverjack scenario and the details of the engineering effort mirror the experiences of many developers facing their first embedded Linux project. The slope is steep, but the rewards are very great. Books like Embedded Linux; organizations like the Embedded Linux Consortium, EMBLIX, and LinuxDevices; and the efforts of embedded Linux platform vendors clear a path to successful development and deployment of the next generation of smart, Linux-based devices.