One of most widely respected repositories of embedded and mobile Linux news and information has returned to the web as an archive hosted here at LinuxGizmos.com.
QuinStreet acquired LinuxDevices.com in Feb. 2012 through its purchase of a group of websites from publisher Ziff Davis Enterprise. After the acquisition, LinuxDevices remained frozen in time for about a year before vanishing in May, shortly after I launched LinuxGizmos.com. Following a constructive discussion about possibilities for bringing the LinuxDevices content back online, QuinStreet generously offered to license LinuxGizmos to host the LinuxDevices Archive on our site, as a “holiday present to the Linux community.”
The LinuxDevices Archive is searchable and also available from a calendar interface, so you can click on any month of any year between 1999 and 2012 and see what pops up. Although some stories did not survive the various transitions between content management systems, the Archive includes nearly 15,000 LinuxDevices posts, most with images intact, including news, product showcases, and special articles and editorials. So far, just about everything we’ve searched for has emerged in good shape.
12+ years of embedded Linux history
I started LinuxDevices back in Oct. 1999 when few people had heard of Linux outside the tech community, and far fewer were aware that it was beginning to be embedded within consumer and industrial devices.
Linux still has a name recognition problem beyond the tech community, but you can help people out by pointing to the nearest Android phone or tablet, as well as most set-top boxes or smart TVs. Or show them a WiFi router, network-attached storage device or a growing number of car navigation and home automation systems. Then explain how many more little Linux gizmos help run factories, keep 4G networks humming, operate surveillance systems, and power point of sale devices, field service handhelds and much more. And then you can move on to desktops, servers, and supercomputers.
Back in 1999, Linux was a babe in the woods, especially in embedded, but I was encouraged by the arrival of several startups devoted principally to embedded Linux — most notably, MontaVista Software, but also Lineo and several other smaller firms. Having co-founded Ampro Computers and having co-created the PC/104 form-factor, I had seen how demand for Linux was growing in embedded systems that previously ran Windows CE or various RTOSes (real-time operating systems) like VRTX and VxWorks. People wanted programmability, cost-effectiveness, networking savvy, and basically a smarter and more flexible operating environment. Linux gave it to them. Not all at once, mind you. The kernel evolved considerably during LinuxDevices.com’s 12-year lifespan (including RT-Preempt real-time patches being merged into the 2.6 kernel), and was joined by key open source components like BusyBox, JFFS2, and U-Boot.
The LinuxDevices Archive is full of early milestones for embedded Linux, like the creation of the Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC) in 2000, and the emergence of the very first Linux-based phones, such as SK Telecom’s IMT-2000 (pictured at right) in Korea (2000) and Motorola’s A760 feature phone based on MontaVista Linux and Qtopia (2003). LinuxDevices was there when RTOS vendor Wind River pivoted suddenly to Linux after disparaging it for years, and when products like the TiVo box, the Sharp Zaurus (2001), the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet (2005), and popular Linksys routers showed that Linux devices could win mainstream success.
We followed the rise and fall of the OpenMoko phones, and of the LiMo Foundation‘s mobile Linux spec, which now forms a good chunk of the new Tizen. We also tracked the progress (or lack of such) for mobile Internet devices (MIDs), the clunky early forerunners of tablets, as well as of netbooks, where Linux had over 20 percent of the market before Microsoft cut its prices on Windows XP and exerted pressures on vendors and retailers to crush it.
I left LinuxDevices in Dec. 2007, turning the site over fully to Ziff Davis Enterprise. Under the direction of Henry Kingman, who stayed until 2009, and then Eric Brown and Jonathan Angel who remained until the site was acquired by QuinStreet in 2012, LinuxDevices tracked the continuing evolution of Linux into mobile devices. The site documented the emergence of WebOS and MeeGo (a merger of Maemo and Moblin), which like most Linux projects never quite disappeared. (They can be found in upcoming LG smart TVs and Jolla’s Sailfish OS, respectfully.) We covered the arrival of the BeagleBoard in 2008, and watched the open board concept spread to numerous imitators.
LinuxDevices was there in 2008 when Larry Page and Sergey Brin rollerskated into a New York press event to show off the first phone running the Linux-based Android. In the later years, Android was to take on a larger and larger part of the coverage. The LinuxDevices Archive is a particularly good resource for exploring the early days of Android phones, before the mainstream tech press moved in and the platform became ubiquitous. The site also tracked Android’s more recent moves into media players, handhelds, and other devices.
Throughout, LinuxDevices kept up its primary role as the chronicler of embedded Linux tech of all stripes — a charter that lives on here at LinuxGizmos. We covered single board computers, modules, embedded processors, and the development software that ran on them. We covered devices in PoS, networking, industrial devices, thin clients, medical equipment, home automation, set-tops, robotics, automotive computers, and much more.
Since the launch of LinuxGizmos in March, we’ve heard from many former LinuxDevices readers who dearly missed their daily dose of embedded Linux news the past two years, and were happy to see the baton carried forward on LinuxGizmos. We hope you find the newly available LinuxDevices Archive here at LinuxGizmos.com to be a valuable resource, as well. We certainly will be relying on it ourselves, to add depth and perspective to our continuing daily coverage of this important technology and its amazing accomplishments.
We also want to take this opportunity to publicly express our gratitude to QuinStreet for enabling this revival of the LinuxDevices Archive to reach fruition. We’re confident that the LinuxGizmos Archive will be a valuable resource within the embedded Linux developer, maker, and enthusiast community and beyond.
Happy holidays, and best wishes for a wonderful 2014!
– Rick Lehrbaum, Publisher and Executive Editor
(with additional reporting by Eric Brown, Editor)