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Ask Slashdot: Which OS For an Embedded Display Unit?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the a-little-help-please dept.

Android 135

First time accepted submitter spouse writes "We are a small Software Design team of 8 developers, working with home brewed Linux to make our ARM7, ARM9 and Intel based embedded products work. Now we want to develop our first 7 inch touch screen tablet-like device serving as control panel for a set of our 'black box' devices. We see Android as a possible choice due to the tablet like character of our applications. We will need App management and the GUI elements. We do not need all the apps out there in the store, we do not need any telephone/sms/email/webbrowser support. Will we end with modifying Android just as much as our own Linux derivate to make things work? Does it make sense to build the hardware of the touch panel based on google reference design to minimize the effort? Are there any experiences out there? Who has done that before and what are the experiences of that? How hard is it to make a product really work with Android? What is the right choice here? Shall we try?"

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My dick. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768614)

My dick, faggot.

Oh yeah. FRIST PSOT!!

Re:My dick. (1, Offtopic)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769142)

My dick, faggot.

Oh yeah. FRIST PSOT!!

He said embedded devices, not nanotech, so your dick would be way too small for the application.

My dick. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768702)

My dick, faggot.

Oh yeah. SEXOND PSOT!!

Angstrom (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768716)

Check out Angstrom.

Re:Angstrom (1)

joaommp (685612) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768944)

Or Mulk.

Re:Angstrom (1)

Gib7 (2445652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769852)

Mulk? The web downloader, like cURL or wget? If you mean something else, would you mind providing a URL?

Re:Angstrom (1)

joaommp (685612) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770160)

I would but just realized the website has been taken offline for being under remodelling. Bad timing. It's a Linux system builder. Recent stuff, still very fresh and the most significant application so far has been on gambling machines.

Re:Angstrom (1)

Gib7 (2445652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770474)

Ah, thanks.

Re:Angstrom (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769246)

I think a lot of people here don't do embedded development, but see the linux tag and immediately spout "Android". Look at Angstrom. The learning curve is really steep, but I'm told it pays off. Also look at what people are using on the Beagleboard. Speaking of which, you might want to base your device off of that.

But, it may also be much cheaper to just go with an existing tablet and write a C&C app for those - you only need to write 3 - iPad, Android, and WebOS (if you care) to cover 99% of users. Write it in Qt and you'll be good to go on all three with minimal tweaking!

Your job? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768722)

I don't normally make comments like this, but would you like us to do the rest of your job for you as well?

Yes (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768932)

Submitter here. Yes, I do, faggo.

Re:Your job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37771044)

It's funny how the submission suffers from the syndrome where you flood a bunch of questions at the end.

It depends... (2)

AgentCharlieBrown (788167) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768730)

Do you and your developers feel comfortable with Java? If not, don't go there. Also this sounds like a control application... it seems like Android is too much for that.

Re:It depends... (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768788)

Agreed. Perhaps embedded linux or something of that ilk.

Re:It depends... (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768922)

I bet that it's a buncha kids dreaming of some kinda home automation and/or media control system. No self-respecting DARPA project associate would ask such a queer question. They are correct in catering to the affluent, as that is the only logical career choice in America.

Here's a tip, kids - Instead of hacking together something from scratch, just buy a Samsung Galaxy tab and work from there. Problem solved.

Android FTW (1)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768766)

Seeing as how you won't ever be upgrading the software on your devices, Android seems perfect. You guys will fit right in!

Try BeOS / Haiku (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768804)

After BeOS didn't make it as a desktop, they focused on embedded applications.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BeOS

Re:Try BeOS / Haiku (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768930)

Of course. Because illegally using a long-EOL OS (or using an immature alpha open-source clone of the same EOL OS) in a shipping product is a wonderful idea...

Re:Try BeOS / Haiku (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769646)

Do you have any idea how much money is made by systems running on BeOS? I'm guessing the answer is no, just the radio stations alone that use BeOS are impressive. Its name has changed but its hardly dead.

Work quotient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768810)

> How hard is it to make a product really work with Android?
Depends on what you're trying to do. Not to difficult to use Apps for Android to get Android to wirelessly interface with a adruino attached to a led display.
Using it to launch a NASA rocket likely would be quite a bit more paperwork.

But why...? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768830)

... the hell would you invest engineering resources in building a "tablet like" device that's going to be a proprietary frontend for wherever your real magic is taking place? Android is a great choice, given your requirements list, but for God's sake call one of the 5,000,000 companies in China that make tablets from $50 to $300 and ask them to ship you a crateful. Go to CES next year and walk the small booths - you will not be able to walk under the weight of business cards from companies like this. FCC approvals, full BSPs done for you already, available ex stock FOB Shenzen.

Re:But why...? (3, Informative)

jonsmirl (114798) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768904)

Yes, yes, yes! You would be foolish to rebuild the hardware.
Here are 47,826 vendors in China willing to sell you Android tablets.
http://www.dhgate.com/wholesale/search.do?act=search&searchkey=android&catalog=#search [dhgate.com]

You can buy 7in Android tablets shipped to your door for $60.

Re:But why...? (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768956)

As the kids say these days: "THIS". The temptation to reinvent the wheel when we are surrounded by wheels? I don't get it.

Re:But why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37770560)

I'm pretty sure we're not surrounded by the original wheel.

Re:But why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37770904)

Axle, is that you?

Re:But why...? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769114)

Better yet, just write a damn Android app and either include or require that customers purchase an Android tablet. Android allows side-loading, so you don't even need to submit it to the marketplace. Why limit the functionality of your product to a single Android tablet when improved/cheaper tablets will be released in the future? Why think that you, an organization that obviously (since you asked) doesn't have experience developing a tablet, can do better than the large organizations that specialize in tablets?

Re:But why...? (1)

El Capitaine (973850) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769958)

This.

You're a software design team...don't go into hardware. Leave hardware to the hardware guys...and do what you do best - design software. Considering the size of your team, trying to develop a hardware platform AND the software to go on top of it may be a bit out of your scope, whereas simply writing a side-loadable android app may be much more feasible.

Plus...you may not need all the apps out there in the store. You may not need email/browser support. But your customers might. And if they do, requiring them to carry around two tablets is just silly.

Re:But why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37770170)

If you have a real hard-on for hardware just remove the injection molded ABS case, have sheet metal box industrial-style cases made by a machine shop, pott the whole thing in Silicone & call it IP67

Re:But why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37771302)

All very good points, but to be honest if they're daft enough to start talking about designing hardware then I suspect they're not even a very good software development team either. Anyone with half a brain would realise that it would soak up an enormous amount of time to produce something distinctly inferior to what's already out there.

Re:But why...? (2)

larwe (858929) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770022)

There can be reasons to spec in a specific piece of hardware - there are so many of these cheapo tablets that it's impossible to make a reasonable coverage level of "approved devices" and customers in some markets may demand either that you sell the hardware, or you tell them EXACTLY which brand and model to purchase. But as I said and you agreed, for the love of God don't build yet another reference design tablet.

Re:But why...? (0)

sstamps (39313) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769446)

Perhaps they want a wheel that does something all the other wheels don't do.

Besides, what's wrong with making your own wheels? What's wrong with making something somewhere else but China for a change?

Re:But why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37770218)

Pragmatic assessment of Economic realities?

I mean, assuming you like money. If you hate money, trying to compete with the Chinese economies of scale for small volumes of "No Value Added" sounds like a sure fire plan.

I mean seriously, Hewlett Packard just had a fire sale where they gave away their entire inventory & you expect to compete on a playing field where a company that had every advantage failed?

Re:But why...? (0)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769676)

Because you want fluid controls?

I actually developed an app for Android using the x86 version to get it going, bought an Archos tablet, and realized it was impossible to make the damn thing not laggy and unnatural feeling ... okay, shitty tablet/android combo I think ... so I just went shopping for tablets at local stores ... if you can show me an android tablet that doesn't feel laggier than WoW over a 2400 baud modem I'll consider what you're saying, but the reality of it is, Android fucking sucks for user interfaces on every table I've seen.

So what did I do? Put a PC running Windows in my boat, cost was about the same as a decent tablet and my setup is ... far more robust.

Android tablets suck, sorry to break the hearts of fanboys everywhere, but your suggestion is a non-starter for anyone who isn't just 'OMGZ IT RUNZ LINUX' and actually cares about how it works.

Re:But why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769966)

Without getting into details, I'm in consumer electronics and:

a) Not every application requires 3D graphics and sliding UI elements.
b) If you want to use those you need a capacitive digitizer (which none of the el cheapo platforms include) and a reasonably frisky CPU, preferably also 2D accelerated graphics chipset.

So the $60 tablet is a perfectly reasonable frontend for some applications (replacing a physical keypad for instance) with many benefits.

Re:But why...? (1)

Xenx (2211586) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770056)

Because you want fluid controls?

I actually developed an app for Android using the x86 version to get it going, bought an Archos tablet, and realized it was impossible to make the damn thing not laggy and unnatural feeling ... okay, shitty tablet/android combo I think ... so I just went shopping for tablets at local stores ... if you can show me an android tablet that doesn't feel laggier than WoW over a 2400 baud modem I'll consider what you're saying, but the reality of it is, Android fucking sucks for user interfaces on every table I've seen.

So what did I do? Put a PC running Windows in my boat, cost was about the same as a decent tablet and my setup is ... far more robust.

Android tablets suck, sorry to break the hearts of fanboys everywhere, but your suggestion is a non-starter for anyone who isn't just 'OMGZ IT RUNZ LINUX' and actually cares about how it works.

I'll agree that you'll get more bang for your buck from a computer, over a tablet. That is, assuming your use case doesn't preclude an actual computer. As for the performance, you're either greatly exaggerating or you have no clue what you're talking about. I cannot speak for every model, but in general the honeycomb tablets run smoothly. I can't say I've never had a hiccup with the UI, but definitely not what I'd call sluggish.

Re:But why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37770946)

You mustn't actually own a Honeycomb tablet. Try seeing how responsive it is after power cycling - it takes a good 30-60 seconds after an immediate unlock before it stops behaving like it's stuck in molasses.

Once it's up and running, though, it's how well written the foreground app is that determines how responsive it is. (e.g.: PocketLegends is pretty crap, Light Racer and Light Racer 3D are great.)

Re:But why...? (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770756)

Hey troll. Every salesperson we have in the field is equipped with an Acer A500 Android tablet running Homeycomb running our custom catalog and ordering software. Lag free. PLEASE stop trolling with you hate and bias. It is getting old.

Re:But why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37770852)

I shouldn't bite, but honestly this is just utter garbage.

Either:
a) you didn't know what the hell you were doing when you attempted to write an app
b) you tried to use a "web based app" or one of the various porting tools that tend to generate substandard code. Or
c) you're just trolling.

The fact you say you just switched to Windows suggests it could be any of the above.

why reinvent the wheel? (4, Informative)

snemiro (1775092) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768848)

If any commercial 7" tablet fits your needs, check some brands/models out there and create a custom version of Android + your app. If it doesn't (probably not rugged enough, or the touch screen not bulletproof....) get them, strip them and modify them. If you are planning to sell more than 100k units and you have enough $, get serious, contact a factory and ask for some redesign for you. In both cases, you can use a stripped android + your app. OR you can start with something like this: http://www.geek.com/articles/gadgets/get-your-own-open-source-touchscreen-device-for-69-2011023/ [geek.com]

Re:why reinvent the wheel? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769026)

If any commercial 7" tablet fits your needs, check some brands/models out there and create a custom version of Android + your app. If it doesn't (probably not rugged enough, or the touch screen not bulletproof....) get them, strip them and modify them. If you are planning to sell more than 100k units and you have enough $, get serious, contact a factory and ask for some redesign for you. In both cases, you can use a stripped android + your app. OR you can start with something like this: http://www.geek.com/articles/gadgets/get-your-own-open-source-touchscreen-device-for-69-2011023/ [geek.com]

There are plenty of ruggedized, industrial PCs out there. This guy needs to spend a few minutes Googling this stuff. Forget Android: just run stock Debian or BSD on the thing and forget about it. Or even Windows Embedded, if you happen to swing that way (as Seinfeld said, "But there's nothing wrong with that!")

Re:why reinvent the wheel? (1)

Ahab's compliments (1801080) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769164)

If any commercial 7" tablet fits your needs, check some brands/models out there and create a custom version of Android + your app. If it doesn't (probably not rugged enough, or the touch screen not bulletproof....) get them, strip them and modify them. If you are planning to sell more than 100k units and you have enough $, get serious, contact a factory and ask for some redesign for you. In both cases, you can use a stripped android + your app. OR you can start with something like this: http://www.geek.com/articles/gadgets/get-your-own-open-source-touchscreen-device-for-69-2011023/ [geek.com]

There are plenty of ruggedized, industrial PCs out there. This guy needs to spend a few minutes Googling this stuff. Forget Android: just run stock Debian or BSD on the thing and forget about it. Or even Windows Embedded, if you happen to swing that way (as Seinfeld said, "But there's nothing wrong with that!")

I think he actually said "not that there's anything wrong with that".

Re:why reinvent the wheel? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770686)

If any commercial 7" tablet fits your needs, check some brands/models out there and create a custom version of Android + your app. If it doesn't (probably not rugged enough, or the touch screen not bulletproof....) get them, strip them and modify them. If you are planning to sell more than 100k units and you have enough $, get serious, contact a factory and ask for some redesign for you. In both cases, you can use a stripped android + your app. OR you can start with something like this: http://www.geek.com/articles/gadgets/get-your-own-open-source-touchscreen-device-for-69-2011023/ [geek.com]

There are plenty of ruggedized, industrial PCs out there. This guy needs to spend a few minutes Googling this stuff. Forget Android: just run stock Debian or BSD on the thing and forget about it. Or even Windows Embedded, if you happen to swing that way (as Seinfeld said, "But there's nothing wrong with that!")

I think he actually said "not that there's anything wrong with that".

I believe you're right. But it's been years since I saw it, and I didn't consider it an important enough quote to Google. I attributed it, I figured that was enough.

Any OS + HTML5 (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768852)

The latest trend is to use ANY OS but develop your actual apps with HTML5 et all. That way in the end you aren't tied to a specific OS and if you need to change later you can. All you would need is hardware drivers rather than a new software stack. There are many cross-platform touchscreen oriented web-frameworks you can use as well.

Re:Any OS + HTML5 (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768868)

*I should correct this. You might still need a software stack, just not a new display layer. Plus you could scale to many screen sizes easily.

No Market? Go custom. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768862)

If you have no intention of supporting Market apps then skip Android and go custom or use some other tailored OS. If you already have a customized Linux then leverage your existing knowledge and slap a micro version of X on it with a custom mouse driver for the touch interface.

Consumer-focused, one-size-fits-all operating systems are terrible for control applications (timing problems, bulkware, etc) and don't really give you anything in return. It's a bit like handing your wallet to a hooker and watching them walk away.

Re:No Market? Go custom. (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769042)

It's a bit like handing your wallet to a hooker and watching them walk away.

No, it's more like having unprotected sex with that hooker and having to deal with all the fallout resulting from your initial bad decision.

Re:No Market? Go custom. (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769130)

It's a bit like handing your wallet to a hooker and watching them walk away.

No, it's more like having unprotected sex with that hooker and having to deal with all the fallout resulting from your initial bad decision.

Actually, it's like having repeated unprotected sex with that skanky chick down the street over a period of years, trying to keep it secret from your wife and kids, and having to deal with all the fallout.

Re:No Market? Go custom. (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769668)

Consumer-focused, one-size-fits-all operating systems are terrible for control applications (timing problems, bulkware, etc) and don't really give you anything in return. It's a bit like handing your wallet to a hooker and watching them walk away.

But if you only need a hundred units rather than 100,000, using a Consumer-focused, one-size-fits-all operating system on existing off-the-shelf software is more like paying the hooker on the corner $100 for a night of sex than in investing $10,000 custom molding a lifelike latex doll.

The latex doll may meet your needs perfectly and may do exactly what you designed her to do, but if you get tired of her in a year, you need to spend another $10,000 designing a new one, whereas if you just used commonly available hookers, you could upgrade to a newer improved one dozens of times and still pay less than your custom latex doll. And if you become wildly successful, you can always build the doll later when you have enough volume to justify the expense.

Use off the shelf hardware for control if you can (5, Interesting)

BenFranske (646563) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768878)

Having some experience in this area my suggestion is to use off the shelf hardware if you at all can. For most of these specific market "black box" control applications you'll never sell enough to bring the cost low enough to do a ground-up design at a reasonable price, plus it locks you in to the current state of capabilities. It will be much more cost effective to use existing Android tablets, write an app for them to do your control and talk back to your black box over a network (a private network if you must). This will allow you much more flexibility than linking the control interface directly with the black box. In the pro a/v and automation category where I do some of this work almost everything has gone this direction and it makes it much easier and faster to design/upgrade.

Re:Use off the shelf hardware for control if you c (3, Interesting)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769054)

Agreed. We did an in house design of one and just the engineering costs added about $500 to each unit when spread out over 30,000 units. We most likely will not sell that many but it's a goal and the figure used to do costing. We used our own in house code which is very mature. We're going with an already made and industry certified ( we need too many certs but this means we only have to pay to get it certified for shipboard use) Atom processor based touch screen which is larger, has more features and is about 10x faster than our in house design. Since there are at least 10 vendors of similar products we won't be locked into the architecture of the in house design, porting the firmware will not add to much cost and these are *less* money than our in house design if engineering costs for the final product are figured in.

Re:Use off the shelf hardware for control if you c (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769832)

Though I heard that you chose this design path because of your immense faggotry.

Re:Use off the shelf hardware for control if you c (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37771318)

I don't know why you've been modded interesting, unless it's the schadenfreude of it all. What kind of business thinking is "We most likely will not sell that many but it's a goal and the figure used to do costing."???? I'll tell you: it's the business thinking of people who enjoy pissing money down the drain. Jesus.

Re:Use off the shelf hardware for control if you c (2)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770182)

We have a similar situation and what we did was create the control interface to our blackbox using HTML/Javascript and JQuery Mobile. The blackbox hosts a simple web server with a services API written in Perl. The control interface now can be loaded as a Chrome app on a desktop or laptop, packaged as an installable app for Android or iPad using PhoneGap, or function as a "web app" on pretty much any mobile device that is wifi capable. Granted our "blackbox" resides as part of a wireless hotspot running OpenBSD and was designed to allow other devices to connect to it from the ground up.

Our first customer is using the $500 iPad 2's as their interface device of choice, but the fact that the controls are HTML/JS and worked on any smart phone they tried during the demo phase was a huge plus. Our system is replacing a system they deployed 10 years ago that never really worked all that well, mainly because most of the hardware and software was proprietary. And it was a huge problem because a lot of the equipment was frankly outdated before they even went live. This time around we got the contract simply because we took the "workstation" part out of the equation. So long as it can run a webkit browser our system will work.

Re:Use off the shelf hardware for control if you c (2)

umbrellasd (876984) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770848)

We have dozens of these projects at my company, and this is the simplest way. There are plenty of vendors in China that will give you a good deal on an ARM5/9/11 or Cortex touch device. You plunk Android on it and then build a native app, or as we often do, build on HTML5 app with a native middle-layer and JavaScript bridge. Pretty simple process. Main concern is the vendor, because build quality can vary widely from the Chinese fabrication plants.

My company builds hardware like this as well, when it makes sense. We could build you this app for a very reasonable price, *wink*.

Windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768892)

I hear the new windows is supposed to be able support ARM...

Re:Windows (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769100)

I wonder what the per unit licensing costs would be? There's a reason linux has such a big market share in embedded apps. The area where windows shines, if at all, is desktop and that's as far away from this as you can get.

Re:Windows (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769694)

Windows CE, which is what you'd actually use in this context has run on ARM processors for what? 12-15 years?

Embedded OS vs. embedded GUI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768894)

I always thought doing the embedded OS part was easier than the GUI part. Getting a GUI running on an embedded device can be a real PITA. Building the driver for the touch screen, faking a touch screen to look like a mouse (because they're super different) - all a real PITA. The chip vendor will give you a Linux port 90% of the time, just reconfigure it for your memory footprint.

The question for me isn't which OS are you going to use. It's an embedded platform, with presumably *1* application that matters - what will make that application easiest to a) write b) maintain c) make sense?

The question is amusing, interesting even - but I'm not totally sure its relevant to what you want to create.

Re:Embedded OS vs. embedded GUI (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769720)

faking a touch screen to look like a mouse

And why would you do that?

I've yet to run into a GUI system that DIDN'T support direct coordinate inputs ... i.e. easy touch screen support.

Windows does, X does, Photon (from QNX) does. Pretty much everything that matters does.

Really depends on what you are interfacing with (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768952)

The I/O options on Android leave much to be desired. Extensive hacking would be required to get anything to work from the micro-usb port.

Plus the built in controls that allow the user to easily go to the home page and enter the settings would be difficult to remove. There is no way to lock the device down and you would spend too much time making a custom environment.

Chrome is better suited than Android on any day of the week.

an iPad (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768954)

Don't be a commie open-source faggot.

Re:an iPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769236)

Don't be a commie open-source faggot.

Because it is much better to be a commie fanboi who worships a dead man who had no business getting a liver transplant in the first place.

Busybox-based linux (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768970)

Keep it small and simple so it boots fast. We use a bunch of them from board and chip
vendors. The one from Atmel seems fine.

QNX (1)

donstenk (74880) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769014)

Is that not something QNX was supposed to be good at - except now it is a phone OS as well .....

You are thinking of using a phone OS as control app platform, RIM will be using a RT control platform in a phone.

Go figure.

Re:QNX (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769122)

I remember back in the 90's when Amiga Inc. was looking for a new core for their systems that never were to happen. They showed off a demo of qnx and it blew me away. It did things then that were unimaginable. I wonder what it's like now.

Re:QNX (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770064)

I wonder what it's like now.

The original designer of QNX died, the company was sold twice (to Harmon, then RIM), the product went from closed source to open source to closed source to open source to closed source, and the real-time customer base was fed up.

It's still an elegant microkernel.

You're looking for a ... (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769072)

fast, light tool kit [wikipedia.org] ?

If that's not suitable, try XForms [xforms-toolkit.org] .

Realistic choices? (1)

JAlexoi (1085785) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769076)

The economic reality dictates that you have Meego/Maemo/Tizen or Android as options at the moment. Qt or Android UI framework go well with touch, but Android might have a bigger community oriented at touch input devices.

Meego (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769078)

...or Tizen were my first ideas. But maybe there are smaller alternatives if you plan to run only your frontend, some olf then not being even linux based (bsds, qnx, others?)

Re:Meego (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769202)

Meego: EOL
Tizen: Vapourware

I'm glad you're not making OS choices for my company.

Using a Flash Player at all? (0)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769080)

If you want Flash for any reason (think ads) then I consider the ARM/Linux combination to be a no go. X86/Linux works OK but the ARM/Linux combo isn't. Technically there's some support out there for it but in reality it's many versions behind, not optimised and in general it won't work well.

Either avoid Adobe Flash (HTML 5 is better anyway imho) or avoid the ARM/Linux combo. This information is mainly relevant if you plan on serving up adds from a kiosk. Advertisers often expect you to support Flash.

Re:Using a Flash Player at all? (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769096)

You do remember Android is a Linux right? And that is has Flash support? Just checking...

Re:Using a Flash Player at all? (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769208)

Yes but i'm referring to the specific X Windows varieties of Linux. Android Flash support is specific to Android i'm afraid.

Stay in your comfort zone. You already know linux (1)

Marrow (195242) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769124)

That way you can use your existing toolkits and expertise. I think you will find that the jump to add touch functionality will be less than the jump to a different universe.

Freescale Qnx qt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769218)

Depending on how much ram / flash, and how embedded an environment you want, I would consider Freescale running Qnx.

There's a company in Toronto I could recommend that could help you. Feel free to contact me.

Consider not using an OS... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769272)

I know this doesn't directly answer your question but it may help.

If you absolutely need things like task scheduling, web server, xml parsers and more goodies, then yeah consider an OS. But seriously, if all you are doing is writing some stuff to a display and doing a bunch of control "under the hood", you dont need an operating system at all. In fact, an OS could prove to be a hindrance, driving up complexity and hardware costs.

I know you said you are using ARM8/9, but maybe you dont even need that. Cortex-M3 devices are cheap, offer plenty of horsepower, and demo kits are $100. You definitely sound new to embedded in general, and one of the most common mistakes one makes when designing their first embedded system is not getting your hardware requirements straight.

Would be great to see an Android distro for this (1)

monkeyhybrid (1677192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769340)

As others have said, Android sounds perfect for your requirements.

I'd love to see an Android distro geared towards this kind of use. Like how CyanogenMod (and others) is a great Android distro for phones, a more bare bones distro without the phone, messaging, general bloat, etc, would be perfect for more bespoke applications like yours. I don't have the skills to start that kind of project but maybe you guys do?

Re:Would be great to see an Android distro for thi (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769560)

As others have pointed out, with the current prices of Android tablets from China, you'd have to be insane to even think about trying to cobble together your own solution. If you really have to make it look custom, buy a crateload of $100 (retail-price) tablets, take them apart, and mount their innards in your own enclosure. I seriously doubt whether you could buy the LCDs *alone* for what you'd pay for the whole tablet, let alone the touchscreen and everything else.

Once you've got the tablet running Android, 90% of your development work is done. Decide how you want to connect it to the rest of your system-- wifi, bluetooth, or hardwired. If you go the 'hardwire' route, you have two choices:

* the headphone jack. Forget its official purpose -- with a tiny bit of added hardware ( http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10331 [sparkfun.com] -- I think this is actually a commercial version of an opensource project) and some host software, it's a serial port. Get a hold of the tablet's source, reverse engineer its schematic a bit so you can figure out what GPIO pins the 3 TRRS pins (not including ground) are connected to, and it's a a bitbang-able SPI interface.

* USB. Some actually use a crossbar chip to let you connect pins from the USB port to one of the CPU's UARTs, but don't even waste your time. Just check out the open-source schematics for "IOIO" ( ready to use reference board available from http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10748 [sparkfun.com] ), which will give you more i/o options than you'll know what to do with.

Actually, there might be a third option by the time you read this. TI released a chip explicitly intended for use in Android tablets with zigbee (for home automation, industrial control, etc). If you hunt around Shenzhen and/or Silicon Valley enough, chances are you'll be able to find someone who already has a series in the design pipeline, if not manufactured and ready to buy today.

The point is, you'll never get hardware cheaper than for what you can buy off the shelf cheap Chinese Android tablets, even if you don't care about 99.9% of their capabilities. In return, you'll get a nice, ready to use host OS you can use to implement whatever higher-level display protocol you want to create. You don't have to use the tablet for anything besides an intelligent LCD host. Best of all, if you interface through something relatively vendor-agnostic, like IOIO, you won't even be tied to any single source in the future (as long as you aren't planning to disassemble them and reassemble them in your own enclosures, of course... then you'd be totally dependent upon a specific tablet).

why a dedicated controller? (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769392)

Why not give it bluetooth or wifi and then write an Android app to allow any android tablet/phone to control your "black boxes"?

Qt Embedded for Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769402)

Qt Embedded for Linux is very nice. Lighter than you would think with no x server.

Why do all that work? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769406)

Some people are sort of touching on this, but why bother? What's keeping you from making an Android application that does this, then charge for that, let the users pick their own tablet, maybe recommend a tablet that you could sell to them.

If you sell tablets with the app preinstalled, you can market it as "It controls all this, AND PLAYS ANGRY BIRDS!!!!"

Even if you go the route of making a custom android for your custom tablet, you still have to make an app to run on it. Why not skip the tablet R&D and just make the app?

CLFS if you want it tidy and small (1)

snikulin (889460) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769462)

Cross Linux From Scratch: http://trac.cross-lfs.org/ [cross-lfs.org]
Whenyou are done with the basics you can put whatever you want on top of it.

Custom front-end (1)

blackC0pter (1013737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769476)

Being an engineer I definitely know the drive to want to do it yourself all the time. But when it comes to business, RESIST THE URGE! Just because you can doesn't mean it is a good business decision. Also, your architecture seems dated and not really future proof. Why not make your black boxes IP enabled? Create a standard IP API to control your black boxes and then just network everything. Then you create a web app to control your black boxes. You will be able to control your black boxes from your phone, a standard tablet attached to the black boxes, or from your computer. Why limit yourself to a single control panel and why waste time building and programming a custom control panel? Do you really want to support that custom control panel? Or would you rather buy a new tablet if the first one breaks and then go back to focusing on your black box magic.

I can't say much about the software or the OS... (1)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769554)

...but on the hardware side I'd definitely go with the reference design, especially if your quantities aren't huge. In today's world hardware requirements change rapidly, and so does the availability of silicon. A chip that's just-past-bleeding-edge today may be obsolete, or at least hard to get, in a year or two - then you're looking at a re-design. Whereas if you're on the reference design path and a key piece of silicon becomes scarce, you have a bigger, faster, more experienced, better funded team working on the next reference design. And by studying a reference design, using it, and gaining experience with it, you'll be in a better position to design your own hardware from scratch down the road if the need should arise. Also, using an already-proven design will allow you te get to market faster, as well as leaving more resources for the software, documentation, marketing, support, etc.

Re:I can't say much about the software or the OS.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769904)

...but on the hardware side I'd definitely go with the reference design, especially if your quantities aren't huge. In today's world hardware requirements change rapidly, and so does the availability of silicon. A chip that's just-past-bleeding-edge today may be obsolete, or at least hard to get, in a year or two - then you're looking at a re-design. Whereas if you're on the reference design path and a key piece of silicon becomes scarce, you have a bigger, faster, more experienced, better funded team working on the next reference design. And by studying a reference design, using it, and gaining experience with it, you'll be in a better position to design your own hardware from scratch down the road if the need should arise. Also, using an already-proven design will allow you te get to market faster, as well as leaving more resources for the software, documentation, marketing, support, etc.

Very true, the hardware will become an issue down the line as the next generation eclipses this one.
A smart strategy is find a tablet that works for you, order 2 years worth of units, sell your products.
Then create your next generation of fabulicious.
I have 10 years experience in product design and it happens all too often.
You could also contact a product design firm for assistance, such as www.ideinc.com, tell them Tem sent you.:-)

Dont. (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769612)

Write control application in html. Let clients use whatever they like. "Certify" androing browser/ipad/firefox/ie and you are golden.

Qt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37769670)

The value in building the tablet in-house is so the company's product is not strongly coupled to the ebb and flow of availability of 7" tablets for $60, much less the availability of a particular model/configuration to list in a manufacturing BOM.

Qt is somewhat archaic, hardly any active support, but works and has it's own framebuffer with minimal footprint. Android looks nice; it is also unfortunately bloated for true embedded interface purposes. If the complexity of the interface application requires multiple screens and RTOS functionality, then you're practically stuck with a distro. If all you need is an interface then keep it simple.

-- lhs

You need stability (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769744)

Unless you want to do it all over in the near future, you need a long-term stable OS. That rules android right out, as it still is more of a tech-demo than an OS. It definitely is a work-in progress. Best guess: Use Debian stable, x.org, a long-term stable window-manager like fvwm and make sure there are open-source drivers for the graphics.

As for language, I would recommend doing most of it in a scripting language like Python and embed any low-level stuff with C. I cannot recommend Java for anything. It is neither a scripting language, nor a high-performance low-level language. The libraries offer a lot but very often hide critical details in a failed attempt to be cross-platform. As such it does everything but nothing well. And it tends to make matter far more complicated than needed. You can also easily hire any number of incompetent Java coders, but hardly any good ones as the good coders use other languages.

Re:You need stability (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769986)

That rules android right out, as it still is more of a tech-demo than an OS

Huh? Android is the OS of 56% of all smartphones in use by consumers in the world. How is that a "tech-demo?" It still has a few bugs but otherwise it is a remarkably stable and competitive Linux-based OS.

Re:You need stability (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770606)

I know what it is. The problem is that for stability you need more than that. And no, Android is not really "Linux based", it is "linux-kernel based". The kernel is just one part of the whole and it is not the issue here. For reliability you need stability and that means gradual improvements for at least 10 years. Android cannot offer that as it is still changing too fast. It is also unclear how much long-term support or ubgradeability individual versions have.

I like Linux and I have some server installations running for > 10 years, but Android is not the way to go for something like this. Debian or another server distro may be.

Re:You need stability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37771422)

Linux is just the kernel, you spastic. Android uses a kernel based on the Linux kernel, but since Linux *is* only the kernel, Android is Linux-based. I know that's not the way the general public talk of it but I'd have thought as a dedicated Debian-pusher you'd be well aware of this. Or did you think they're just calling it GNU/Linux for the shits and giggles?

Re:You need stability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37770628)

That rules android right out, as it still is more of a tech-demo than an OS

Huh? Android is the OS of 56% of all smartphones in use by consumers in the world. How is that a "tech-demo?" It still has a few bugs but otherwise it is a remarkably stable and competitive Linux-based OS.

S/he isn't referring to the stability of the operating system itself - as in, does the OS crash. He's referring to the codebase stability of the platform. That is, guarantees that code developed for current 7in Android tablets presumably running Froyo or Gingerbread will continue to function unmodified on the Android tables of tomorrow and beyond. On a platform with such a rapid development cycle and rapidly evolving underlying hardware structure, future compatibility of custom written code is anything but guaranteed.

The best idea that I've heard here is to code your whole control mechanism as a HTML-driven web application with the design focus to be displayed on a tablet style device. Test the app against WebKit and Trident (IE) and avoid use of features that are brand new- stick with older, stable code paths and design elements. It'll be less flashy (pun-possible) but should hold up relatively well over time. Of course, an interface like this requires something to run as a server to power the interface; I'd stick with a virtual appliance there, since they should be relatively portable and hardware independent as well.

Ask Slashdot.... (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769828)

What's the best platform for my project that Tivo-izes Linux?

Re:Ask Slashdot.... (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769948)

What's the best platform for my project that Tivo-izes Linux?

Right, anyone who makes money with Linux is evil. He should use Windows Mobile instead, right, because there is no chance of his publishing his changes and others using them on similar hardware? Hint: the GPL ensures that the changes will be public and he's going to be using COTS hardware.

I've done kiosk and POS terminals (2)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 2 years ago | (#37769916)

I always used Debian for ARM, but a lot of people liked Angstrom. This was before the whole "tablet" and "multi-touch" craze started. The thing is now that all these tablets are available and so cheap I'd question why you wouldn't just modify a tablet?

You really don't need to ask (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770118)

I don't know why you are asking this on Slashdot, given that you could have assigned any of your developers to look into the topic for a day and come up with a better answer (since he will understand your requirements).

As far as my experience with embedded goes, yes, Android is a fairly easy system to work with. Might not be as stable as MicroC/OS or some other real-time system, but it is easy to work with. But once again, it depends a LOT on the details of your project.

I'm laughing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37770250)

Because here at ./ if you ask us a question, there will be a thousand different answers, each increasing the complexity of any solution another thousand fold. And, on top of that, you'll be feeding the trolls, and giving mirrors to the narcissists. Dont do that. Instead, you already sound reasonably intelligent, you can come up with a descent answer without all the self esteem bashing they like to do here.

Efika SB (genesi-usa.com) with Arm Linux (2)

ami.one (897193) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770962)

I have worked on an embedded kiosk with NFC+3G for cash card transactions and all these Chinese tablets are an absolute NO - NO. We tried 20 models and there are too many problems making the $100 price tags totally irrelevant. We finally found a great product from Genesi (genesi-usa.com) called Efika smartbook ($200) and smart top ($100). You'll get surprisingly good quality, great engineering design and pretty good software software. It runs Ubuntu Arm customized a little but you can run Fedora Arm etc. Has inbuilt 3G,WiFi/BT but you can opt out of those for $40 cut in prices i think. Their new models have touchscreens - though i would not recommend touchscreens for anything non-consumer item as they always have issues if the usage is high or the atmosphere is industrial/outdoor etc. Better to go with external bluetooth touchpads (indl quality) or numeric keypads so that it can be replaced without opening up the machine. The form factor of smartbook is also great for doing arm development on the move or normal office/home use. FYI, I have no relation with Genesi - just a recent customer.

Go open source instead of Android (1)

Zombie (8332) | more than 2 years ago | (#37771434)

Read the other Android article published today [slashdot.org] and go for something open source instead. Maemo [maemo.org] , Moblin, Meego, Tizen [tizen.org] , Mer [merproject.org] or just plain Debian.
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