Free Electrons welcomes Boris Brezillon and Antoine Ténart

Boris Brezillon
Antoine Ténart

We are happy to announce that our engineering team has recently welcomed two new embedded Linux engineers: Boris Brezillon and Antoine Ténart. Boris and Antoine will both be working from the Toulouse office of the company, together with Maxime Ripard and Thomas Petazzoni. They will be helping Free Electrons to address the increasing demand for its development and training services.

Antoine started his professional experience with Embedded Linux and Android in 2011. Before joining Free Electrons in 2014, he started with low level Android system development at Archos (France), and worked on Embedded Linux and Android projects at Adeneo Embedded (France). He joined Free Electrons early March, and has already been involved in kernel contributions on the Marvell Berlin processors and the Atmel AT91 processors, and is also working on our upcoming Yocto training course.

Boris joined Free Electrons on April, 1st, and brings a significant embedded Linux experience that he gained while working on home automation devices at Overkiz (France). He was maintaining a custom distribution built with the Yocto. Boris also has already contributed many patches to the mainline Linux kernel sources, in particular for the Atmel AT91 ARM SoCs. Boris is also developing the NAND controller driver for the Allwinner ARM processors and has proposed improvements to the core Linux MTD subsystem (see this thread and this other thread).

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Embedded Linux Conference 2014, Free Electrons participation

San JoséOne of the most important conference of the Embedded Linux community will take place at the end of this month in California: the Embedded Linux Conference will be held in San Jose from April, 29th to May, 1st, co-located with the Android Builders Summit. The schedule for both of these events has been published, and it is full of interesting talks on a wide range of embedded topics.

As usual, Free Electrons will participate to this conference, but this participation will be the most important ever:

If you are interested in embedded Linux, we highly advise you to attend this conference. And if you are interested in business or recruiting opportunities with Free Electrons, it will also be the perfect time to meet us!

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Linux 3.14 released, Free Electrons contributions inside!

Linus Torvalds has just released the 3.14 version of the Linux kernel. As usual, it incorporates a large number of changes, for which a good summary is available on the KernelNewbies site.

This time around, Free Electrons is the 21st company contributing to this kernel release, by number of patches, right between Cisco and Renesas. Six of our engineers have contributed to this release: Maxime Ripard, Alexandre Belloni, Ezequiel Garcia, Grégory Clement, Michael Opdenacker and Thomas Petazzoni. In total, they have contributed 121 patches to this kernel release.

  • By far, the largest number of patches are related to the addition of NAND support for the Armada 370 and Armada XP processors. This required a significant effort, done by Ezequiel Garcia, to re-use the existing pxa3xx_nand driver and extend it to cover the specificities of the Armada 370/XP NAND controller. And these specificities were quite complicated, involving a large number of changes to the driver, which all had to also be validated on existing PXA3xx hardware to not introduce any regression.
  • Support for high speed timers on various Allwinner SOCs has been added by Maxime Ripard.
  • Support for the Allwinner reset controller has been implemented by Maxime Ripard.
  • SMP support for the Allwinner A31 SOC was added by Maxime Ripard.
  • A number of small fixes and improvements were made to the AT91 pinctrl driver and the pinctrl subsystem by Alexandre Belloni.
  • Michael Opdenacker continued his quest to finally get rid of the IRQF_DISABLED flag.
  • A number of fixes and improvements were made by Grégory Clement and Thomas Petazzoni on various Armada 370/XP drivers: fix for the I2C controller on certain early Armada XP revisions, fixes to make the Armada 370/XP network driver usable as a module, etc.

In detail, our contributions were:

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Free Electrons at Embedded World 2014, Nuremberg, Germany

Embedded World 2014, Germany

Embedded World is the world’s largest trade show about embedded systems. In 2013, it attracted around 900 exhibitors, over 22,000 visitors and almost 1,500 congress participants.

This year, Free Electrons will be represented by our CEO Michael Opdenacker. This should be a great opportunity for us to understand our customers better, by meeting embedded system makers, by seeing what their needs are and what technologies they use. It will also be an opportunity to meet well known members of the technical community. In particular, here are a few well know people who are going to speak at the congress:

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are attending this event too and are interested in knowing Free Electrons better, for business, partnership or even career opportunities!

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Buildroot meeting and FOSDEM report, Google Summer of Code topics

As we discussed in a recent blog post, two of our engineers participated to the FOSDEM conference early February in Brussels, Belgium. For those interested, many videos are available, such as several videos from the Lameere room, where the embedded related talks were given.

Thomas Petazzoni also participated to the two days Buildroot Developers Meeting after the FOSDEM conference. This meeting gathered 10 contributors to the Buildroot project physically present and two additional remote participants. The event was sponsored by Google and Mind, thanks a lot to them! During those two days, the participants were able to discuss a very large number of topics that are often difficult to discuss over mailing lists or IRC, and a significant work to clean up the oldest pending patches was done. In addition to this, these meetings are also very important to allow the contributors to know each other, as it makes future online discussions and collaborations much easier and fruitful. For more details, see the complete report of the event.

Buildroot Developers Meeting in Brussels

Buildroot Developers Meeting in Brussels

Also, if you’re interested in Buildroot, the project has applied to participate to the next edition of the Google Summer of Code. Two project ideas are already listed on the project wiki, feel free to contact Thomas Petazzoni if you are a student interested in these topics, or if you have other proposals to make for Buildroot.

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Free Electrons contributions to Linux 3.13

Version 3.13 of the Linux kernel was released by Linus Torvalds on January, 19th 2014. The kernelnewbies.org site has an excellent page that covers the most important improvements and feature additions that this new kernel release brings.

As usual Free Electrons contributed to this kernel: with 121 patches merged in 3.13 on a total of 12127 patches contributed, Free Electrons is ranked 17th in the list of companies contributing to the Linux kernel. We also appeared on Jonathan Corbet kernel contribution statistics at LWN.net, as a company having contributed 1% of the kernel changes, right between Renesas Electronics and Huawei Technologies.

Amongst the contributions we made for 3.13:

  • Standby support added to the Marvell Kirkwood processors, done by Ezequiel Garcia.
  • Various fixes and improvements to the PXA3xx NAND driver, as well as to the Marvell Armada 370/XP clocks, in preparation to the introduction of NAND support for Armada 370/XP, which will arrive in 3.14. Work done by Ezequiel Garcia.
  • Added support for the Performance Monitoring Unit in the AM33xx Device Tree files, which allows to use perf and oprofile on platforms such as the BeagleBone. Work done by Alexandre Belloni.
  • Support added for the I2C controllers on certain Allwinner SOCs, as well as several other cleanups and minor improvements for these SoCs. Work done by Maxime Ripard.
  • Continued the work to get rid of IRQF_DISABLED, as well as other janitorial tasks such as removing unused Kconfig symbols. Work done by Michael Opdenacker.
  • Added support for MSI (Message Signaled Interrupts) for the Armada 370 and XP SoCs. Work done by Thomas Petazzoni.
  • Added support for the Marvell Matrix board (an Armada XP based platform) and the OpenBlocks A7 (a Kirkwood based platform manufactured by PlatHome). Work done by Thomas Petazzoni.

In detail, the patches contributed by Free Electrons are:

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Free Electrons at FOSDEM and at the Buildroot Developers Meeting

FOSDEMThis week-end is the first week-end of February, which on the schedule of all open-source developers is always booked for a major event of our community: the FOSDEM conference in Brussels. With several hundreds of talks over two days, this completely free event is one of the biggest event, if not the biggest of the open-source world.

For embedded Linux developers, FOSDEM has quite a few interesting tracks and talks this year: an embedded track, a graphics track (with many embedded related talks, such as talks on Video4Linux, the status of open-source drivers for 2D and 3D graphics on ARM platforms, etc.), and several talks in other tracks relevant to embedded developers. For example, there is one talk about the Allwinner SoCs and the community behind it in one of the main track. Our engineer Maxime Ripard is the Linux kernel maintainer for this family of SoC.

Two Free Electrons engineers will attend FOSDEM: Maxime Ripard and Thomas Petazzoni. Do not hesitate to get in touch with them if you want to discuss embedded Linux or kernel topics!

Also, right after FOSDEM, the Buildroot community is organizing its Developers Meeting, on Monday, 3rd and Tuesday 4th February. This event is sponsored by Google (providing the meeting location) and Mind (providing the dinner), and will take place in the offices of Google in Brussels. Ten Buildroot developers will participate to the meeting in Brussels, as well as a number of others remotely. On Free Electrons side, Thomas Petazzoni will be participating to the meeting. If you are interested in participating, either physically or remotely, do not hesitate to contact Thomas to register. For more details, see the wiki page of the event.

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Android training sessions in the UK

Free Electrons is happy to announce its first public training session outside of France.

British Android robot logo

Of course, we deliver training courses on customer sites all around the world, but this will be the first one open to individual registration that we organize outside of France.

We are starting with an Android system development session in Southampton, UK.

You will enjoy the newest version of our Android course, based on Android 4.x, and using the BeagleBone Black as the development platform for the practical labs. As always in our training sessions, participants walk away with the board used during the practical labs (in this case the BeagleBone Black and its LCD cape), allowing them to continue their learning and experiments well after the end of the course.

Being a popular cruising destination, Southampton is easy to reach from other cities in the UK and in the world.

The Android robot picture is copyrighted by Google. It is licensed under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Unported license. The British robot version has been derived by Free Electrons, and is available under the same license. Feel free to reuse it and improve it as long as you keep the original author!

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Free Electrons New Year – 2014

This article was published on our quarterly newsletter. A French version also exists.

The Free Electrons team wishes you a Happy New Year for 2014, with plenty of optimism and energy!

We are taking this opportunity to give some news about Free Electrons.

In 2013, Free Electrons significantly increased its contribution to open-source projects, especially at the Linux kernel level.

639 patches integrated in the Linux kernel, mainly to improve support for Marvell ARM processors and Allwinner ARM processors. For all kernel releases published in 2013, Free Electrons has been in the top 30 contributing companies. We now have a significant experience in integrating support for ARM processors in the Linux kernel, and we expect to work more in this area in 2014.

595 patches integrated in the Buildroot embedded Linux build system, in a large number of areas, making Free Electrons the second most important contributor after Buildroot’s maintainer. This effort allows Free Electrons to keep an up-to-date expertise in cross-compilation and build systems.

26 patches integrated in the Barebox bootloader:

22 patches to the Yocto Freescale layer, mainly adding support for the Crystalfontz boards. In the process, a new image type was developed and significant improvements were made to the Barebox recipe.

Several of these contributions, and many other activities, were driven by development and consulting activities in 2013, with mainly:

  • Linux kernel code development, adding and maintaining support for customer ARM processors or boards in the mainline Linux kernel. Especially on Marvell and Freescale processors.
  • Linux kernel, driver development and build system integration for an Atmel SAMA5 based medical device.
  • Development of Linux kernel drivers for radio-frequency transceivers, on an Atmel SAMA5 based home automation platform.
  • Boot time optimization audits.
  • Buildroot consulting and audit.

We have also significantly improved and updated our training courses:

Our training materials remain freely available under a Creative Commons license, including their source code, available from a public Git repository.

Free Electrons continues to believe that participating to conferences is critical to keep its engineers up to date with the latest Linux developments and create connections with the developers of the Linux community which are essential to make our projects progress faster. For this purpose, we participated to a large number of conferences in 2013:

  • FOSDEM 2013, in Brussels, Belgium. Our CTO and engineer Thomas Petazzoni gave a talk about ARM kernel development
  • Buildroot Developers Meeting, Brussels, Belgium. Our engineer Thomas Petazzoni organized and participated to this 2-days meeting, sponsored by Google, to work on Buildroot developments.
  • Embedded Linux Conference 2013 and Android Builders Summit 2013, in San Francisco, United States. Our engineer Gregory Clement gave a talk about the Linux kernel clock framework. Our engineer Thomas Petazzoni gave a talk about ARM kernel development. See also our videos.
  • Linaro Connect Europe 2013, Dublin Ireland. Our engineer Thomas Petazzoni participated to numerous discussions related to support for ARM processors in the Linux kernel.
  • Linux Plumbers 2013, New Orleans, United States. Our engineer Maxime Ripard attended the conference, and participated to discussions around Android and Linux kernel development.
  • Kernel Recipes, Paris, France. Both Free Electrons CEO Michael Opdenacker and CTO Thomas Petazzoni participated to this Linux kernel conference, and Thomas gave two talks: one about ARM kernel development and one about Buildroot.
  • ARM kernel mini-summit 2013, Edinburgh, UK. Our engineers Gregory Clement, Thomas Petazzoni and Maxime Ripard participated to the invitation-only ARM kernel mini-summit. This summit is the key place to discuss and define the next directions for support for ARM processors in the Linux kernel.
  • Embedded Linux Conference Europe, Edinburgh, UK. Gregory Clement gave a talk about about the Linux kernel clock framework and Thomas Petazzoni gave a talk about the Device Tree.
  • Buildroot Developers Meeting, Edinburgh, UK. Our engineer Thomas Petazzoni organized and participated to this 2-days meeting, sponsored by Imagination Technologies, to work on Buildroot development.

A very important development of Free Electrons in 2013 is the addition of a new engineer to our team: Alexandre Belloni joined us in March 2013. Alexandre has a very significant embedded Linux and kernel experience, see his profile.

Now, let’s talk about our plans for 2014:

  • Hire several additional engineers. One of them has already been hired and will join us in April, bringing a significant Linux kernel development experience, including mainline contribution.
  • Our involvement in support for ARM processors in the Linux kernel will grow significantly.
  • Two new training courses will be released: one “Boot time reduction” training course, and an “OpenEmbedded and Yocto” training course.
  • For the first time, we will organize public training sessions (open to individual registration) outside of France.
    • Our next Android system development session in English will happen on April 14-17 in Southampton, UK
    • We are also working on embedded Linux and Kernel and driver development sessions in the USA, to be announced in the next weeks.
    • We also plan to organize embedded Linux and Kernel and driver development sessions in Germany, with German speaking trainers.
    • By the way, our Android system development courses in French will continue to run in Toulouse, but there will also be a session on April 1-4 in Lyon.

    See also the full list of public sessions.

As in 2013, we will participate to several key conferences. We have already planned our participation to: Linux Conf Australia (January 2014), FOSDEM (February 2014), Embedded Linux Conference (April 2014) and the Embedded Linux Conference Europe (October 2014).

You can follow Free Electrons news by reading our blog and by following our quick news on Twitter. We now have a Google+ page too.

Again, Happy New Year!

The Free Electrons team.

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New training materials: boot time reduction workshop

We are happy to release new training materials that we have developed in 2013 with funding from Atmel Corporation.

The materials correspond to a 1-day embedded Linux boot time reduction workshop. In addition to boot time reduction theory, consolidating some of our experience from our embedded Linux boot time reduction projects, the workshop allows participants to practice with the most common techniques. This is done on SAMA5D3x Evaluation Kits from Atmel.

The system to optimize is a video demo from Atmel. We reduce the time to start a GStreamer based video player. During the practical labs, you will practice with techniques to:

  • Measure the various steps of the boot process
  • Analyze time spent starting system services, using bootchartd
  • Simplify your init scripts
  • Trace application startup with strace
  • Find kernel functions taking the most time during the boot process
  • Reduce kernel size and boot time
  • Replace U-Boot by the Barebox bootloader, and save a lot of time
    thanks to the activation of the data cache.

Creative commonsAs usual, our training materials are available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. This essentially means that you are free to download, distribute and even modify them, provided you mention us as the original authors and that you share these documents under the same conditions.

Special thanks to Atmel for allowing us to share these new materials under this license!

Here are the documents at last:

The first public session of this workshop will be announced in the next weeks.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in organizing a session on your site.

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