LJ Archive


The Bottle Labeled “Drink Me”

Shawn Powers

Issue #206, June 2011

Let's face it, the Linux install base is shrinking. No, of course I don't mean numbers, I mean the actual size of the devices onto which Linux is installed. Just like with Alice's trip down the rabbit hole, we're seeing our favorite OS embedded on smaller and smaller hardware. This month, we talk about some of those places and teach you how to make a “Drink Me” bottle for your own projects.

Reuven M. Lerner starts us out with Backbone.js. Making Web applications, whether big or small, is an invaluable skill. Every Web device supports JavaScript (for the most part), and Backbone.js helps make those Web apps seem like traditional desktop applications. Mick Bauer provides Part II of his series on DNS cache poisoning, which can affect all users. Whether you are using a Droid in your pocket, Linux on your lap or a server in your workroom, DNS is how you get things done on-line. Everyone is vulnerable, so be sure to read up!

If installing Linux on something as mundane as a phone isn't your cup of tea, you'll likely be interested in Anton Borisov's article on the Linux-powered spider robot, hexapod. A device right out of a science-fiction movie, and also my nightmares, the spider bot is powered by Linux. Anton interviews its creator, Matt Bunting, and explains how it works. Tom Parkin talks about bugs this month too, although his article is a little less creepy. Tom shows how to de-bug embedded Linux platforms with GDB and Python. If you're a Linux developer, chances are you're familiar with GDB. Tom demonstrates version 7, which now has Python support.

When it comes to embedded Linux projects, they don't get much smaller than with the Gumstix. James McColl walks us through compiling a custom kernel for the Gumstix Overo Fire. If you want to install Linux on a device you could disguise as a stick of chewing gum, or if you're just interested in learning to compile custom embedded kernels, be sure to check it out.

What could be scarier than the robotic spider, hexapod? Well, perhaps if that same spider bot were able to speak to us. Rick Rogers explores speech recognition and synthesis for embedded systems. Although the technology certainly isn't limited to autonomous spider robots, I fear our readers might try to do just that. If you do, please don't send me one for review.

We've got other Linux distributions designed for embedded systems this month, one of which is CyanogenMod 7.0. I had the opportunity to interview Steve Kondik from the CyanogenMod team, and I show off some of the new features of this cutting-edge Android ROM. Tiny installs of Linux certainly aren't a new idea, and Joey Bernard shows us a tiny distribution designed for computers. Even cell-phone developers would have a hard time beating the space saved by Tiny Core Linux. At 10MB, it has a full graphical environment and can run completely in RAM.

Perhaps the idea of a premade distribution leaves a sour taste in your mouth. That's fine too. Alexander Sirotkin shows how to roll your own embedded Linux system with Buildroot. This is useful for times when an existing distribution doesn't suit your needs—for example, if you were building a sentient robotic spider that could talk and understand the spoken word. You'd most likely want to build a custom embedded Linux environment, so you could include the WORLD_DOMINATION.c module and, my favorite, the STAY_AWAY_FROM_SHAWN.c module. The latter is available to any robotic spider programmers free of charge.

This month isn't all about embedded Linux, however. Whether you learn about using the OAuth protocol from my friend Adrian Hannah or want to figure out days of the week in a script with Dave Taylor, this issue has you covered. We've also got our regular lineup of new product announcements, UpFront tidbits and enough geeky tips and tricks to keep any Linux lover happy. And remember, if this embedded issue is making you feel a bit too small, we'll try to save you some of that cake with the “Eat Me” sign next to it. It worked for Alice!

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for LinuxJournal.com, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at info@linuxjournal.com. Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on Freenode.net.

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