Monday, May 5, 2014

2014 Embedded Linux Conference Trip Report

This year I got to attend Embedded Linux Conference, present my Sigrok talk from ELCE, and be part of the Debugging half-day's panel session.

Quick report of what talks I found interesting, takeaways, and various thoughts.

April 29th - Conference Day One

USB and the Real World
Alan Ott - Signal 11 Software

Alan went into how USB can be odd based on device used, packet type + size, modes, and general weirdness can affect performance. USB is one of those things we all have to deal with and likely will for a long time.

Update on Boot Time Reduction Techniques, with Figures
Michael Opdenacker - Free Electrons

According to the Michael the bootup time performance hasn't improved much over the last few years with a ~8 second bootup time will be the fastest you can expect. Simple hacks like ripping out un-need drivers to avoid a useless driver probe() call, execute-in-place,  recycled "old data" on reboots, and reduced kernel sizes.

Userspace Drivers in  Linux - Pros, Cons, and Implementation Issues
Micheal Christofferson - ENEA

This talk I admittedly left a quarter the way in because it was blatantly the incorrect way to view writing a hardware level interface. Speaker was saying in as much words as "writing kernel level drivers is hard" and we shouldn't rule out using userspace for writing them. This is wrong on so many levels from userspace polling, being non-deterministic, and really creates another non-upstreamed API.

On a side note if I had known Greg Kroah-Hartman was in the audience I would have stuck around for his quips on how this is a horrible idea and any "performance" gains are whitewash for bad codes and losing determinism.

How to Build a Linux Based Robot
Michael Anderson - PTR Group

This talk went into how to use a Beaglebone Black/Raspberry Pi/Arduino for low cost robotics and RC applications.  He had a robotic demo driven by a BBB on technical showcase later in the night.

April 30th - Conference Day Two

Keynote: IoT and the Role of Embedded Linux and Android
Tim Bird - Sony, Karim Yaghmour - OperSys, Benjamin Jones - Alcatel-Lucent, Matt Porter - Linaro, and David Anders - CircuitCo

What I gathered from this keynote is everyone has a different sense of what the buzzword "The Internet of Things" means, and no general consensus outside of your toaster being wired up. Security will be a huge issue in the near term, and I look forward to using my SDR card to probe for weaknesses around my flat.

Linux for Microcontrollers: Spreading the Disease
Vitaly Wool - Softprise Consulting OU

Vitaly went into how it can be a challenge to deal with the space, loading, and computing issues with using Linux on a microcontroller.

Debugging - Linux Kernel Testing
Matt Porter - Linaro

Despite how the session was labeled this was a Birds of Feather that went into how the audience debugs their kernels. The short list of it all was from the almighty printk, JTAG debuggers (everyone loves the BDI2000/3000 still), unit tests like LTP + lmbench + bonnie++, and good old LEDs on pins.

Debugging - Hardware Debugging Tools
David Anders - CircuitCo

David was the first part of this half session with me. He described all the low level debugging techniques using JTAG, brief logic analyzers overview, and how to use various other hacks (LED on interrupt line), etc.

Debugging - Sigrok: Using Logic to Debug Logic
Matt Ranostay - Intel Open Source Technology Centre

This was my talk on introduction of the Sigrok project which allows you to break free of closed source and generally Windows-only logical analyzer/DSO/DMM software. Showed how you can use it on various devices, protocol decoding, and a simple demo of decoding SPI data outputted to a LED string driven by a Beaglebone.

Debugging Panel
Matt Ranostay - Intel Open Source Technology Centre, Matt Porter - Linaro, David Anders - CircuitCo, Karim Yaghmour - OperSys

This debugging panel again was more like a Birds of Feather, and the audience had a wide range of questions for the panelists (including me). Karim fields some Android debugging questions, David various JTAG + OpenOCD, Matt Porter a mix of hardware meets software, and mine were targeted at the Sigrok + DSO/DMM/LA field.

May 1st - Conference Day Three

Open-Source Tools for Software-Defined Radio on Multicore ARM+DSP
Philip Balister, OpenSDR

Nice overview of GnuRadio usage was in this talk which appealed to me since I recently got a USRP for getting more into SDR research.

Porting Linux to a New Architecture

Marta Rybczynska - Kalray

Like a colleague of mine said this one of the few times you wanted more marketing slides in a talk. Her presentation was a generic bringup on Linux but the processor from Kalray is 256 cores (not sure they all worked.. I suspected locking issues). Could have some major SDR processing potential!

What's going on with SPI
Mark Brown - Linaro
Not much to go into detail about this talk but it had a good overview of using SPI device with the Linux Kernel API and limitations.

Kernel USB Gadget Configfs Interface
Matt Porter - Linaro

Last talk of the day getting in the way of beer time.. I'm kidding mostly :P. But no Matt went into detail how to use functionfs to create composite USB gadgets dynamically. 

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