New online community launches for embedded Linux developers

It won't be a "Facebook for Linux" but an online community specifically for Linux programmers.

It probably won't be "Facebook for Linux" but a Web site launching Tuesday is intended to create an online community specifically for Linux programmers who focus on embedded applications such as mobile devices, set-top boxes, industrial controls and everything apart from servers and PCs.

The Web site, dubbed Meld, is organized and supported by  MontaVista Software, which markets a Linux software stack, services, support and tools for the embedded market.

Linux-based mobile phone operating systems, such as Android, and middleware stacks such as the one from the LiMo Foundation, are coalescing, embraced by device makers and carriers as a way of lowering costs and leveraging open source development. But phones are only one, very visible, part of the embedded market.

Initially, Meld will provide the familiar Web-based forums that many online community groups use to organize topics into searchable discussion threads. Meld eventually will add tools such as wikis to organize, update and share information, ideas, resources and even code.

Anyone will be able to read the discussions, but you have to register to add your own two cents. Registered users can choose to make public their technical interests, and these profiles can be organized in a visual map: you see an icon representing yourself, surrounded by icons of other registered, public users, whose nearness to you indicates how closely the spheres of interest coincide.

Does the world really need another Linux community site?

"The open source community today is really a large group of small groups," say Dean Misenhimer, director of marketing for MontaVista. "Kernel.org for example is focused on just the Linux kernel. GLIBC is about building a specific set of libraries. Each one is focused on specific topics or a specific technology. But for embedded developers, where can they go to get all the relevant information and resources together to deliver a product to market?"

The answer, of course, is "nowhere, until now."

Meld has been running since January as an invitation-only beta site, open to a group mainly of MontaVista customers and partners. With its launch this week at the Embedded World conference in Germany, Meld is being opened to embedded Linux developers worldwide. MontaVista executives stress that the vendor is only a sponsor, and that Meld is a community site for all embedded developers, no matter what Linux implementation they're using.

"So far the discussions have been appropriately geeky," says Brad Dixon, MontaVista's director of product management. "And they've been very open. Commercial developers are accustomed to a degree of secrecy, but they've been very comfortable with sharing information on Meld."

Tthe vendor has a budget to support Meld, but won't disclose what the amount is, and has a community manager assigned to oversee the site and support the users. A number of MontaVista employees are participating in the community.

In other news, MontaVista announced that its Linux software will support the open source Moblin project on the Intel Atom processor. Moblin is intended to support rich graphics and multimedia on low-power, connected devices powered by the Intel chip. MontaVista Linux for Intel Atom will ship in mid-March.

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John Cox

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