Embedded linux

As can be learned from the article Linux range of use, Linux kernel-based operating systems are ubiquitously found on diverse hardware platforms. This article, Linux for embedded systems, is about the use of Linux kernel-based operating systems on embedded systems such as customer-premises equipment, in-vehicle infotainment (IVI), networking equipment, machine control, industrial automation, navigation equipment and medical instruments in general. The term Customer-premises equipment (CPE) comprises Smart TVs, Home theater PCs, set-top boxes, wireless routers and similar networking equipment, and other consumer electronics devices.

The article Linux for mobile devices covers all Linux kernel-based operating systems for touchscreen-based embedded devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, but also some mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) portable media players that come with a touchscreen separately.


Linux has been ported to a variety of CPUs which are not only primarily used as the processor of a desktop or server computer, but also ARM, AVR32, ETRAX CRIS, FR-V, H8300, IP7000, m68k, MIPS, mn10300, SuperH, and Xtensa processors, It is also used as an alternative to using a proprietary operating system and toolchain.

Devices coverage

Due to its low cost and ease of customization, Linux has been shipped in many consumer devices. Devices covering PDAs (like the Sharp Zaurus family), TomTom GPS navigation devices, residential gateways like the Linksys WRT54G series or smartphones: the Motorola exz series, the Openmoko handsets, the Nokia N900 and Nokia N9 cell phones were all using the Linux kernel. Nowadays the operating system that dominates the cell phone market is the Android operating system which is based on a modified Linux kernel along with a custom user space. The first device shipping with the Android operating system was the HTC Dream, which was released on 22 October 2008.[1]

On machine control systems, industrial automation, and medical instruments Linux has also been used extensively. The website has many examples of such devices shipping with an embedded Linux as the operating system.


With the availability of consumer embedded devices, communities of users and developers were formed around theses devices: Replacement or enhancements of the Linux distribution shipped on the device has often been made possible thanks to availability of the source code and to the communities surrounding the devices. Due to the high number of devices, standardized build systems have appeared like OpenEmbedded, Buildroot, OpenWrt, and LTIB.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of embedded Linux over proprietary embedded operating systems include multiple suppliers for software, development and support; no royalties or licensing fees; a stable kernel; and the ability to read, modify and redistribute the source code. The disadvantages include a comparatively large memory footprint (kernel and root filesystem); complexities of user mode and kernel mode memory access; and a complex device drivers framework.

See also


Further reading

External links

  • DMOZ
  • Embedded Linux mailist list archive
  • Complete Embedded Linux system in RJ-45
  • Embedded Debian Project
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