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what is embedded linux

What is Embedded Linux? Everything You Need to Know

You might have seen many embedded systems nowadays where you can control everything from a display screen like a mini-computer. Most of these systems are based on Embedded Linux systems. 

Generally, Linux runs on computers like x86. However, Embedded systems have limited memory, speed, and other resources. But you want to operate these embedded systems like a computer. For this purpose, you remove unrequired elements and components from Linux to run it on your Microcontroller with limited resources. This customization of Linux is called embedded Linux.

Linux is an open-source operating system. You can customize it easily to run according to your requirements. This article will discuss everything you need to know about embedded Linux in Simple words. Let’s get started now!

What is Embedded Linux?

It is a special type of OS designed to be installed on embedded systems. It is a compact version of Linux that offers limited features according to the requirements of your underlying hardware.

Generally, embedded systems have a very smaller size and processing power. Therefore, they cannot run a complete OS with limited resources. So, you can optimize the Linux based on your underlying systems. This customized Linux can run on your domain-specific systems.

There are many examples of embedded Linux systems around us. One of the best example is Android OS. It is based on Linux OS. Some other examples are following

  • In-Vehicle Display Screen Control
  • Smart Phones
  • Tablets
  • Set-top Boxes
  • Personal Media Players

Embedded Linux vs. RTOS vs. Bare Metal Code:

If you are new to embedded systems, you might need clarification on bare metal, Real-Time OS (RTOS), and Embedded Linux. Here, I will explain to you embedded Linux vs rtos in simple words. Besides, I will also tell you about the proper usage of these technologies in the present world.

1. Bare Metal Code:

Bare metal code is a simple code that runs without any operating system. It is a pure C/C++ code that can run on any microcontroller. It is used for minimal embedded systems. The most common boards for Bare metal codes are esp32, Arduino, and low-end variants of STM32.

2. Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS):

If your system is a little complex and requires responsiveness, you can use RTOS. It offers several benefits like multi-threading and multi-processing, which makes complex systems responsive and real-time. However, RTOS-based systems are a little complex and hard to debug. Furthermore, these systems also take more memory and other resources.

3. Embedded Linux Systems:

If your system is more complex, like your smartphones, you will need an embedded Linux. It is mostly used in scenarios where you want to control everything from a display like a mini-computer. So, you customize and optimize Linux for these microprocessors with limited power. 

These systems usually operate on Cortex-A processors. The common boards for embedded Linux are Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, STM32MP1, and imx series.

Advantages of Using Embedded Linux:

  • Linux is open-source. So you can easily customize its source code for your targeted systems.
  • Linux is very robust as it offers features like multi-threading and multi-processing. 
  • Linux offers widespread support for features like graphics, networking and communication. These features are important for any embedded system.
  • Linux systems are less prone to malware and other security threats. Therefore, it is the best choice for security-critical embedded products.
  • Linux is very scalable. You can even customize it to run on small SD cards. Other OS doesn’t offer such scalability.
  • Linux is open-source and free. Therefore, it is a very cost-friendly choice for embedded systems.
  • Linux is easy to customize. So, you can add or remove any component depending on your project.
  • Linux has a huge community of developers online. They can help you with any problem related to Linux Customization.

Components of Embedded Linux:

The necessary components for any embedded Linux systems are following

  • Kernel
  • Boot Loaders
  • Root File Systems
  • Services
  • Application

Best Platforms for Customizing Linux:

There are many free tools available for customizing Linux. However, some famous tools for customization are following

Yocto, also known as OpenEmbedded, is the best tool for customizing Linux. The reason is that Yocto is very flexible. Yocto Project is an open-source project in collaboration with OpenEmbedded. It allows customization of Linux regardless of the hardware architecture.

Yocto project offers best practices to customize Linux-based architectures for embedded devices. Apart from that, Yocto has a huge community that greatly supports development.

  • Buildroot:

Buildroot is another very handy platform for customizing Linux-based projects. In Buildroot, you can generate extremely lightweight distros for your embedded products. However, its exceedingly minimalist approaches cause several customization problems.

  • OpenWrt:

OpenWRT should be the first choice for networking-focused embedded Linux projects. However, if your project requires significant customization, you should prefer Yocto or Buildroot.

Do You Need Embedded Linux Services? 

If you are looking for any services in Embedded Linux, feel free to contact us for any help. We have a huge team of Embedded Linux developers in Germany and Pakistan. Our team has already worked with many clients worldwide on embedded Linux projects. They will be more than happy to assist you in your problems. Have a look at EpTeck.com to learn more about our projects and values.

Predicting the Future?

In the present world, where everything is digital and controllable via smart displays, the importance of embedded Linux has increased. It is rapidly gaining a reputation in modern automotive, security systems, and other fields. More than 80% of embedded systems will be shifted to Linux by 2030.

Where to Learn Embedded Linux:

If you are really interested in learning embedded Linux, the best course for beginners is Embedded Linux using yocto on Udemy. In this course the instructor explains every basic steps in details. This course covers core concepts like kernel and uboot to which makes it one of the best Embedded Linux Course online.

You can also have a look at this Embedded Linux Pdf if you prefer books over videos to learn new skills.

Final Words:

That is all from the todays topic. I hope that you have understood the concept well. In future, I will try to cover more topics related to this field. If you have any query, free free to ask in the comment section.

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