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From little Acorns to Linux PDA gadgets

By Chris Williams. Published: 12th Nov 2005, 10:47:27 | Permalink | Printable

arm26 port coder explains hardware and kernel hacking

Photo of a PDAThe programmer who looks after the Linux kernel for legacy Acorn kit has spoken of his work with ARM powered PDAs. Ian Molton's efforts on the portable gadgets, whose internal workings are closely guarded by their manufacturers, began when he decided to port the open source kernel to a PDA that originally had WindowsCE installed on it. Upset at the lack of stability in Microsoft's attempt at embedded software engineering, Ian drew on his knowledge from working with 26bit ARM powered Acorn machines to hack the Linux kernel onto the devices.

In his interview, Ian said: "I started on the Acorn Archimedes. It ran an operating system called RISC OS that's a relatively simple operating system. It hasn't got memory protection and all the things that Linux has now.

"But that got me interested in messing around with the operating system itself because it was really, really easy to get into the operating system on that particular setup. Without memory protection you could play with the registers. I moved from that into Linux on ARM-based devices. First just running it as a desktop on the Archimedes and later on programming the kernel."

Meanwhile, a strategist for innovations company IDEO explained to the Financial Times yesterday why some gadgets and other technology products fail to take off. Name dropping Stephen OíConnor said: "Some products never gain a market. They may find niche communities, like the Acorn computer, but never penetrate the mass of consumers."

While we'll enjoy our niche community, we're reminded that IDEO developed the one button mouse for the Apple Lisa.

Links

Interview: Linux in your vest pocket from Sys-Con

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Discussion

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Even back at RISC OS 2, RISC OS had memory protection. Sadly, whilst Ian does have a strong following in the Linux world, his credibility when he was involved with RISC OS was often put in question with his strange views - as evidenced by the ill-conceived frx project.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 18/11/05 5:01PM
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Yes, but he does seem to have done good Linux-related work, and whilst it is inaccurate to claim that RISC OS doesn't have memory protection (and I don't quite understand what the accessing registers has to do with that either), the fact is that most versions of RISC OS lack memory protection in certain important respects.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 19/11/05 10:45PM
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