Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013 LinuxCon Europe + Embedded Linux Conference Europe Trip

So this year I got to attend LinuxCon EU and speak at the Embedded Linux Conference Europe, drink beer, eat haggis (which is so good the Customs agents will ask if you are carrying any when re-entering the US :)), see coworkers wearing kilts (you know who you are) and catch up with my European colleagues.

However this year's LinuxCon has a lot of cloud focus which personally being an embedded guy bores me easily, but however I attended a few interesting sessions.

Day one started with a few suits giving keynotes that really weren't interesting or useful, but Chris Aniszczyk gave a great keynote on scalability of the Twitter service and how they managed to offload high CPU bound tasks to the network stack. Reducing capital costs and devops costs greatly and maximizing the total utilization of the server cluster.

LinuxCon EU Day One Talks:

Jake Edge - Namespaces for Security

This talk went into depth about the various levels of container security and how can securely segment various tasks, network + mounts sharing between "master" and slave containers. Loosely this can be applied to "the Cloud" in a tenant application based segmentation.

Matthew Garrett - Exploring the Dustier Corners of System Firmware

Missed a good part of this talk due to a schedule shift for the keynotes + registration but what I caught was a good war story on how not to totally trust all you sent to the UEFI interface binary blob.

Lev Iserovich - Using Linux to Support a Specialized Computer

Lev explained an interesting setup of PowerPC core controlled by x86 server to do molecular research, and quite a few slides were above my head...

LinuxCon EU Day Two Talks:

Joao Paulo Rechi Vita - Bluetooth Smart Devices and Low Energy Support on Linux

Bluetooth Low Energy is the future for device communications that NFC simply cannot handle. Joao gave an overview how this stack functions within the kernel.

Ruth Suehle - Raspberry Pi: Getting Started and Creative Applications

Now before getting too harsh on this talk.. the author should disclose his great dislike for the Raspberry Pi platform.  Especially since all the fame seems to be targeted at this platform and the Beaglebone is mostly ignored..

My Luther's list of grievances:
  • Not Open Source Hardware at all... you can't even get gerbers or even the processor part in low volume..
    • Compared to the MinnowBoard or Beaglebone Black which you can get all parts in single part quantities
  • 90% of people that have one have said to me "Well it is only $35..", like that is valid reason to buy something. Save your money and get the Beaglebone Black for $10 more...
  • Binary blob loaded on the GPU is needed to even boot the damn thing...
  • Promotes horrible practices like bitbanging SPI and I2C through GPIOs
  • Want to hear the other 91 ones buy me a beer at the next conference and hear me rant :)
Ruth went into various cool things you could do with a RPI, various projects, and how you could violate FCC regulations (among pretty much everywhere except on the high seas) with one :).

My colleague Attila Kinali pointed out the FM radio broadcasting over a GPIO pin wasn't only illegal in the range it can reach (over 200 meters ), additionally frequency harmonics will totally take out any HAM radio nearby, and even worse interfere with pacemakers!

Somehow this got on the Maker magazine website as a project, and the moral of the story is don't trust everything you read that is legal. These FCC broadcast violations can add up to tens of thousands in fines...

There is a reason SDR cards cost $700-1500 with all those fancy passband filters...

Jonathan Corbet - The Kernel Report

Jonathan did his typical report on how the kernel is progressing with patchset velocity and functionally that has been added since his last talk.

LinuxCon EU Day Three Talks:

Dirk + Linus Show

Typical Dirk and Linus banter, and unless I read Linus wrong he hates embedded less than last year :).

Jacob Pan - Power Capping: Keeping Linux Within Power Limits Efficiently  

In-depth talk on how on using forced idle to both control thermals and power consumption on x86. However this could be applied to most architectures and in theory agnostic to the platform.

Sarah Sharp - OPW: Bringing Women into the Linux Kernel

Sharp discussed how important it is to bring a diverse crowd especially women into Linux, and how to make the community more open.

Three interns from the OPW program gave short presentations on what they were tasked with and accomplished.

Embedded Linux Conference Day One Talks:

Now ELC had a lot more interesting talks but in the shortened 2 day format resulted in 2-3 interesting talks in the same slots...

Chris Simmonds - Timeline for Embedded Linux 

Chris gave a tour back in time on how Linux has evolved in the embedded world from old phone like Zaurus, media players to modern day embedded systems including phones + tablets.

Darren Hart - How Not to Write x86 Platform Drivers

Darren gave a war story on how he got Minnowboard patches into upstream with the struggles of moer

Also went into the complex ACPI bindings that will be needed in the future for daughter-cards (aka lures) and mixture of current drivers than only support ACPI or DT data..

Russ Dill - Extending the swsusp Hibernation Framework to ARM

Russ detailed how the AM335x suspend support was implemented and gave a demo on a Beaglebone.
This included disk suspend, and low microamp ram suspend, and restoring everything from the bootloader.

Mark Rutland - Devicetree: The Disaster so Far

Mark proposed that device tree should be be treated as an API and changes to it in the future can be planned for and should be expected. This is sure to stir the kettle in the DT word since it adds yet another thing to worry about device trees being foward-compatible and could possible turn into the same issue with board files now...

Matt Ranostay (me!) - Sigrok: Using Logic to Debug Logic

My talk was brief introduction on what sigrok is and why you should care about this project and how the community could further its development.

sigrok (lower case is correct) allows the community to break free of horribly vendor closed and incompatible software for logic analyzers + digital oscilloscopes + multimeters.

Demoed a few simple use cases of sigrok and how the magic is in the protocol decoding, and device agnostic signal output.

My slides are up -> sigrok presentation talk

Sigrok Technical Showcase Booth

Later in the evening the sigrok gang (me + Joel Holdsworth + Bert Vermeulen) showed off the functionality using the suite of applications, and a simple trace + decoder demo in Pulseview.

Several people came up to booth expressing great interest in using sigrok and their horror stories of using closed vendor applications...

Embedded Linux Conference Days Two Talks:

This last day was a little more laid back with a ton of hallway sessions between old colleagues and attending their sessions.

Embedded Build Systems Panel - Tim Bird, Sony Mobile; Ross Burton, Intel; Thomas Petazzoni, Free Electrons; Karim Yaghmour, Opersys; Jeff Osier-Mixon, Intel (Moderator)

Keynote went into why everyone thought their buildsystem of choice was better than everyone elses... included some valid points on why one was worse or better than other, but more of political/pride reasons than anything else.

Some of the buildsystems discussed were:
  • Flavor-of-the-day ones at companies and their success or failure rates
  • Buildroot
  • Yocto Project's Poky
  • OpenEmbedded
  • Android's buildsystem

Pantelis Antoniou - Board File to Device Tree Migration: War Story

Everyone in the ARM world's favorite subject to hate or love. Personally I think device tree is so much cleaner than a "file" for every board and avoids recompiling the damn kernel everytime you add a peripheral.

Pantelis went into the dynamic aspects of DT which he has added with capebus as well the war stories of supporting the transition of board files to device tree.

Attila Kinali - Debugging Electronics for the Software Engineer

First talk I've attended of Attila's and for sure won't be my last. First off the slides had no text at all it was all graphical cues on what to discuss. His talking style was rather laid back, informative, and explained the various hardware debugging techniques for the software layman. Being the weird breed of understanding hw + sw rather well I still picked up a few pointers for hw design..

Also he gave a plug to the sigrok project and the Open Logic sniffer!