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Three developers have launched a project to bring Ubuntu, a popular Debian-based desktop Linux distribution, to embedded Linux devices. EmbeddedUbuntu aims to radically simplify device firmware creation, availing mobile phone, PDA, and web tablet owners of easier access to sophisticated open source desktop applications, such as multimedia streaming software.
EmbeddedUbuntu will focus initially on the ARM architecture, and will produce a "reference" graphical filesystem based on GPE (GPE palmtop environment). Ultimately, it hopes to distribute tools that make it fairly simple for users to build and install device firmware, using standard Debian system management tools and repositories of Debian ARMLinux binaries.
The EmbeddedUbuntu project was founded on Halloween of last year, and has so far succeeded in creating an emulated ARM environment for x86 development hosts. The environment is based on an ARM port of the GNU C library (libc6), the QEMU ARM interpreter, and the Linux kernel's "miscellaneous binary format" feature. Besides offering relatively unlimited computing resources, the emulated ARM environment allows the use of "traditional" Debian system installation and package management tools, including dpkg, debootstrap, and apt-get, according to the project Wiki.
The EmbeddedUbuntu project plans to modify dpkg with the capability of stripping out documentation and other unneeded items for embedded deployments. Whether this will require action on the part of Debian's thousands of package maintainers is not clear. A similar project to create an embedded version of Gentoo called for upstream developers to add cross-compile awareness to their sources.
The EmbeddedUbuntu project uses dpkg-cross and other technologies originally created by the EmDebian project, a somewhat stalled effort to create an embedded version of Debian.
Still another project, the commercial ThinLinx effort in Australia, mates embedded thin clients with Ubuntu applications running on remote servers.
Additional details about EmbeddedUbuntu are available on the project's Wiki