Re: Req: (Free) Embedded Platforms for Education

Chris Hills wrote:
so the best solution would be to have a FOSS :)

I don't believe that for many reasons.

Sorry for the nitpicking (well, not really, because this really _is_
important to me), but what would those reasons be? Remember, this is not
for some company with no FOSS experience trying to get their product to
market within a predefined time/cost frame (even then - if done right,
free software certainly can compete with closed & proprietary software).

Yes. However there is a LOT of source code that is available that is
not FOSS. There are several very good OS that are free and the source
is available for non commercial use.

There is a lot of free software from silicon vendors that comes with no
license at all. Let alone the complex GPL. So if students use the code
in something that becomes commercial they don't have to make it open

Only derived work is bound by the same license terms. If you build an
application using Linux as your OS you're free to do with that application
whatever you want. You have to provide source code for all the changes you
made to the OS itself, but then it's in your own best interest to have
those changes in mainline anyway.

Code that comes with no license at all basically means that you can't use it
at all. It has to be explicitly placed in the public domain, or you can't
do anything with it.
Source code from silicon vendors is often a horrible example as far as
licensing is concerned. What good is sample code that states in its header
that all rights are reserved, without a license telling me what I'm allowed
to do?
What makes this situation worse is example code for silicon vendor X's chip
written by compiler manufacturer Y, often with headers stating that you can
only use this code within Y's development environment.

Since in an academic environment you can have always motivated students
that can develop and tune the software; more importantly we learn more
when looking at the source code! So the motivation is not only about
money :) it has to do also by the amount of knowledge that people can
get and transfer 'freely' to other.

Then you don't need FOSS. In fact in your situation it would be counter

Why is that? Even if the students don't get to see a single of the OS
source code, the professor/tutor certainly can get (and use!) a lot more
information about an open source OS than about a closed OS.

See above there is a LOT of source freely available that is not FOSS
The Micrium uCOS/II and FREE RTOS for example. There are others.

FreeRTOS is licensed under a modified GPL (using exceptions as defined in
GPL §7) to allow use of the FreeRTOS code in commercial applications
without having to open the code to the actual application that merely uses
FreeRTOS through the defined API. eCos comes with a similar GPL + exception
licenses since it was relicensed in 2002.

I couldn't find anything definitive on uc/OS-II licensing. The website says
that you should contact Micrium for licensing information, the source code
download is equally sparse on details.
The website further says that educational use doesn't require a license, but
I wouldn't know for sure what I'm allowed to do with it and what not.

You told us the GPL was complex?
.... at least I'm allowed to read it.

I have noticed that few state of the art FOSS exist for embedded

This is true and will remain so.

Attach a serial console to your SoHo network router - chances are it's
running Linux.

It's not.
I was almost expecting that reply. Could we agree that lots of people
(except you) use networking gear that's running Linux, even if they
couldn't care less about FOSS?

There are complete families of commercial devices running
Linux (e.g. Buffalo *station NAS, Linksys routers, ...).
On the development side, the embedded systems ports of GCC are profiting
from every new GCC release. There are certainly areas where FOSS lacks

Certainly for 8 and 16 bit MCU

Heh, just another reason to avoid anything less than 32 bit ;)

, but the strongest argument for free software is that you're able to
change that, and even if you don't, others certainly will.

At their cost. NOTHING is free in this life except programmers.

Well, of course someone has to write that software - but in most cases these
people benefit from the work others have done. Chances are they're using a
lot more free software they didn't write than what they're going to write
themself. Isn't software great? Once written everyone can use it, if you
give them right to do so... And if you're doing it right, noone's going to
take that code and run with it, making money from your work without giving

Best Regards,

Dominic Rath

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