Linux On The Go: Beyond the Laptop


A look into differences of Linux on mobile devices

For a long time, Linux can be divided into two camps - an embedded Linux camp and a desktop/laptop camp. The desktop/laptop camp is predominately stock x86 based hardware dominated by other operating systems and the embedded Linux camp is a mix of custom hardware and standard hardware using an array of different processors. Typically, embedded is targeted toward a specific application and desktop/laptop is general purpose computing. In recent times, Linux has been finding its way into a hybrid between desktop/laptop and embedded. This new area consists mostly of mobile devices that is different from a laptop. Android phones and tablets, e-book readers, netbooks, and the coming MeeGo devices are some examples. In this session, we'll look at what these devices have in common and how Linux has the foundation for them. Like its embedded cousin, such a device requires software/hardware to work in synergy to yeild a device that can also perform general purpose computing. To accomplish this, there are both hardware and software considerations. Opensource developers familiar with development for the desktop will need to adapt designs to meet the challenges imposed by the mobility aspect. Depending on which part of the software, these adaptations can range from simple changes that can feed back into the same peice of code all the way to having to accomodate a new port. On one end, there is the Linux kernel code base that is shared by desktop and embedded users. At the other extreme is Android which requires developers to do a new port. Often, work to port a software project to a mobile platform will have benefits to the desktop versions such as speed and energy improvements along with bug fixes. Unlike desktop/laptops, mobile devices tends to be much less homogenous. As such, often basic user interfaces will have to be tuned for each or class of device. Some pieces will be agnostic to the tuning while others will need to be tweaked. This session touches on issues that both systems developers and individual project developers should be aware of in this new mobile world. Even if developers are not immediately working on a mobile related products, consideration should be weighed to minimize obstacles to future mobile usage of the project. Often times, these same considerations are demanded by embedded users.

Speaker: Hunyue Yau