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2010

What does GENIVI’s selection of MeeGo mean?  If done properly, it means, at the same time, acceleration of MeeGo in Automotive and preservation of GENIVI.

 

 

When GENIVI formed, its goal included creating code and specs, which is a unique challenge for alliances where, typically, specs are developed and code is written as much as 10 years later.  Look at IEEE, ISO, Bluetooth, AUTOSAR, and others to confirm the typical approach.  It’s a long process to gain consensus, but the result is fantastic – products work together and you don’t have to throw them out so quickly.

 

Launched in 2008 with 8 members, GENIVI has grown to become the “Who’s Who’s” of automotive IVI.  Companies joined with the hope of capturing business opportunities created by large, car OEMs: GM, BMW, PSA, Nissan, Renault, and recently Hyundai.  On the other hand, contributing anything that might give or lose a competitive advantage is a challenge for most of these commercial companies.  Automotive suppliers have not learned how to profit from collaboration the way the computer industry has, and their reliability and durability requirements are still being sold as features, not warranty issues.

 

Inside GENIVI there are many meetings where silence is more common than outspoken debate.  This is quite a contrast to Open Source, where constructive confrontation is encouraged and rewarded through maintainership rights. MeeGo offers to turn this upside down for GENIVI, as code development can flow more freely in the open developer environment, while the automotive specs are brought in by the credentialed GENIVI members.  This eliminates 80\% of the problem, since that’s the portion of a Linux automotive solution that will come from outside the alliance, through Open Source.  The remaining 20\% will require collaboration, and in the case of proprietary code and specs that are unique to cars, perhaps 5\% of the total code will never be discussed in MeeGo forums.

 

Graham Smethurst of BMW, and also the GENIVI President put it well, “For GENIVI to be successful, it must become an influential body in both the automotive and consumer spaces.”  He added in 2009, “To gain credibility within the open source community, the Alliance must build on the significant open source contributions of some of its members (those are Intel in PC industry, Nokia in mobile devices, ISVs in popular applications). GENIVI must build relationships with established open source organizations (such as The Linux Foundation) and projects (such as MeeGo, then Moblin).”

 

On the other hand, if not coordinated properly, GENIVI may find itself struggling to replicate the success of Open Source without the compensation many developers are willing to accept, simply being able to make a difference with their investment in time and talent.  If conflict occurs with MeeGo, and since GENIVI is purely commercially driven, only a financial ROI will justify investment and GENIVI will be required to cover the entire development process, a task scoped at 100s of millions of dollars, euros, or yen.

 

This will never work, thus collaboration with MeeGo is the best way to ensure that GENIVI survives in a competitive world of Apple, Android, and the automotive challenge.

 

Joel Hoffmann, Intel Strategic Market Development Manager, GENIVI Director and Marketing Chair

Went to San Diego and attended the 2010 underwater autonomous competition. This is an event that has been going for the last 13 years and attracts college students from around the world. This year there were Japanese, Korean, Canadian, Icelandic, and US teams.

 

Although the competition is open to college students, these folks are more engineers than students. They devote countless hours doing these projects and many of the robots there are very professionally made. There is a lot of debate on the fact that a lot of students in the USA are not embracing careers in science and engineerings. These young people do not have that issue.

The great majority of the teams competiting were using Intel (only one was not). All the top teams were using high end procesors such as core 2 duo. This year winner, Cornell University (see picture of robot) was using a quad core processor.

 

The main challenge in creating underwater robots, besides the fact that they go under water, causing for the most part countless mechanical issues, is the navigation. UAVSI, the organization that puts together this event, focuses on unmanned vehicles.

Most of the students are very proficient in vision processing algorithms, tools, etc. The majority are using a version of linux.

 

follow me on twitter @intel_marcos

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Prize Winners.

After  a long and arduous process the winners of the  Intel Cup Embedded System Design Contest were announced on Saturday afternoon, at Shanghai’s Jaio Tong University. The intriguingly named  “The Art of Shadow Puppet, The Stage of Atom” was the winner of the cup.354iC78655181E6B408F

 

 This novel project combined the traditional art of shadow puppets with robot’s that controlled the puppet’s movements.  In addition to controlling the robots, the same Atom based system would play back the synchronized music and dialogue, and even project an animated background with birds flying above the characters.  For someone coming to the Peoples Republic of China for my first visit, this blending of the old and new, the art with technology, was very appealing. I’m glad to say that the other judges thought so as well.

 

In addition to running a play, the team also had a full GUI based development system for creating and editing the plays.  The robots would duplicate the movements in real time, as the developer moved an arm or adjusted the posture.  Each action was stored, and could even be edited further by hand to tweak the position or synchronize a movement with a dramatic piece of music or phrasing.

They even showed how the system can be used to improvise and react to audience feedback.  The traditional puppet was replaced with Hai Bo the character from the  2010 Shanghai Expo,  and he would dance in time with a drumbeat, or shuffle sideways, as the processor system had different actions assigned to the different sounds a player would make.

Thank you to the organizers... 

 

I never saw the Subsiduary Three-Dimensional Hairstyle System, or even the Portable Multilingual Translation System that I alluded to in Part 1 of this article, as  they never made it in to round 2 of the judging. 

 

For round two, the top scorers, from each group of five judges, was resubmitted and we all recast our votes for the best designs.  As an aside, this competition has been going in now for over six years, so the organizing comittee runs like a well oiled machine. I would like to thank that team for a job well done. It can't have been easy, but they did a superb job, organising accomodation and meals and daily transportation for 176 projects in addition to the 21 judges.

 

For the awards ceremony, Pranav Mehta, CTO of Intel's Embedded and Communications Group, who had just been a guest at the ‘Intel India Embedded Challenge 2010’, flew in to get a tour of the finallists and to give a keynote speech. A common element between the two competitions was the enthusiasm and innovation displayed by the students, and the ongoing support from Industry, Educators and the Government in both countries.

 

Again congratulations to Xidian University and students, WANG Haoran, LIU Xin and ZHU Meng

 

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Picture courtesy of Xidian University

 

Ask a BIOS Guy: TianoCore

Posted by brian_ami Jul 19, 2010

It turns out that when you start a blog called “Ask a BIOS Guy,” people actually ask the author questions about BIOS. Trust me, it’s an amazing revelation. This week I’m answering a question about the TianoCore project that “ramsey” posed after reading my “Why UEFI” article.

 

“I understand Intel has an opensource EFI/UEFI solution called Tianocore that ppl experimenting with EFI can flash onto their platform and allow for boot? Or is Tianocore more of a build environment? Can you explain the distinction between what this opensource project provides vs. EFI based solutions provided by vendors like AMI?”

 

This is a great question. Answering it requires a little background, including the history of how Intel got involved in an open source project that delivers components for firmware developers.

 

Even though Intel is primarily known as a hardware company, a lot of their projects focus on software solutions. After all, the CPU and chipset don’t do much unless they’ve got software to run. As I explained in my first blog entry, UEFI was designed to solve a lot of problems common to BIOS developers, PC manufacturers, operating system developers and chipset manufacturers.

 

UEFI grew out of Intel’s Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), which debuted on 64-bit Intel® Itanium® platforms. The change in processor architecture required a different approach to the firmware interfaces. The original EFI specification focused entirely on firmware-to-OS interfaces, modernizing what the 16-bit BIOS accomplished with software interrupts. Companies like AMI supported our own EFI-compatible implementations like Enterprise64.

 

Once the EFI concept started to extend beyond the Itanium family, there was some interest in having a common framework for exchanging chipset-specific code. Companies like Intel distribute “reference code” for the low-level initialization of silicon. This code is written by the same company that designs the silicon, so they have a better understanding of how the chip is supposed to work … plus, they have access to “undocumented knowledge” that can’t necessarily be shared with all of the BIOS providers.

 

TianoCore is the BSD open source implementation of the “Intel® Platform Innovation Framework for EFI,” which the rest of us started calling “the Framework” if only to save precious minutes on conference calls (plus “IPIFEFI” is a horrible acronym). This code became the EFI Development Kit (EDK), which is described on the project’s sourceforge page

 

The EDK is essentially a container for the Framework's Foundation code and sample drivers. The EDK is also a development kit for developing, debugging, and testing EFI and Framework drivers, EFI Option ROMs, and EFI Applications for use in the Framework environment.


The EDK is used as a building block for everything from device drivers to programs like AMIDiag for UEFI, a platform diagnostic that doesn’t need an OS to run. AMIDiag interfaces directly with UEFI so even if a system can’t boot to the OS it can be properly diagnosed. For embedded systems, this means you can diagnose the motherboard before trying to extract it from a hardened enclosure.

 

It’s important to note that the EDK isn’t intended to be a complete BIOS solution. Intel is many things, but it’s not a BIOS company. Normalizing the interfaces below the OS-to-firmware layer helps get silicon enabling code into the hands of developers faster. The silicon reference code and each BIOS vendor’s “secret sauce” don’t fall into the EDK … much like other commercial projects that incorporate open source in the base code. So the EDK isn’t a turnkey BIOS solution.

 

What a BIOS vendor provides is a complete solution for BIOS development. The EDK is a set of building blocks to help get started with UEFI. All of the BIOS vendors use elements of the EDK, but each one puts their own particular “value” on top of it. For AMI, it’s everything from an integrated development environment to a code structure that helps developers get source updates faster … plus flash utilities, debug tools, engineering services and technical support to help bring those products to market.

 

Once EFI adoption started to rise, everyone went to work on standardizing these elements. The EFI 1.10 specification became the basis of the Unified EFI (UEFI) specification, and the Framework kick started the UEFI Platform Initialization (PI) specification. This allows standardization at the OS-to-firmware interface and below it. TianoCore still lives in the UEFI world, hosting the EDK and other critical projects like the EFI Shell.

 

TianoCore and the EDK are a good are a good way to start learning about UEFI, and provide tools for more than firmware development. Device drivers, applications and OS loaders can all benefit from the EDK. It’s a good base for making better use of what the BIOS provides using UEFI.

 

Brian Richardson
Senior Technical Marketing Engineer
American Megatrends, Inc.

 

American Megatrends, Inc. (AMI) is an Affiliate member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance.

Got a question about BIOS or UEFI? … then it’s time to Ask a BIOS Guy! Find Brian on Twitter (@askabiosguy) or leave your question in the comments. Your BIOS question may be featured in an upcoming ‘Ask a BIOS Guy’ article.

The Intel Cup Embedded System Design Contest (short for "Intel Cup Undergraduate Electronic Design Contest - Embedded System Design Invitational Contest") was initiated by the Chinese government, hosted by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and is solely sponsored by Intel Corporation since 2002. Held every 2 years, the contest provides an opportunity for top undergraduate students to design a working system based on an assigned Intel embedded platform over a period of three months.

 

Each team consists of three members, with a faculty mentor and the three students are each given an hour to present a report, and them demo their system and show the list of features to the judges. Over the past two days I've seen some great designs, some strange and intriguing features, and some epic failures.

 

Judging is still going on, so I won't comment too much on specifics yet, but leave it up to you to decide as well. The title of the post highlights some of the fun, in that the students english name for their products often leave me pondering. I've seen "portable systems", that were not portable at all, a "rubbing tablet", and "Double News Paper Clips". I'll take guesses from the audience on what that system does. I must admit, that the students english is infinitely better than my chinese, I don't even know enough to order a beer, so I am very grateful to have been assigned a translator to help me. 347i21C63B7B018344B5

 

 The Panel of Judges - 2010

 

Today I hope to see the "Online Detector for The Tubular Bottle", "The Art of Shadow Puppet, The Stage of Atom" , "Avatar Brilliant Eyes" and the "Subsiduary Three-Dimensional Hairstyle System" . 

But to be honest what I really need is the "Portable Multilingual Translation System"  built by a team from Xian Jiaotong University. 

 

I can just hear Scotty saying ,"Captain, dinnae forget to pack yur Universal Translator".

I’m sure that, if you’re involved with social media & your customer base is primarily engineers & the like, you’ve seen this story by my friend Karen Field:

 

http://www.eetimes.com/news/latest/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=225700747

 

It is a good article, well written & well researched.  You should take 6-minutes & read it yourself, but to “Tweet” the summary:

 

Engineers hate Twitter b/c it's mostly random/useless garbage ("I ate a burrito")
from people that have nothing better 2 do so #LittleValue

 

OK, I actually can’t argue with that at all.  On the surface, without modification, Twitter is literally as valuable as dirt.  HOWEVER, the catch phrase there was “without modification” which is similar to saying:

 

A hole in a mountain, without any work or tools, has #LittleValue

 

But, what if you had tools & had picked a good place to put that hole, say next to a rich vein of gold or diamonds or whatever?  And you had some folks willing to do a little work to get said gold or diamonds or whatever out of the ground & into your pockets? Then what do you call that hole? That’s right, a gold/diamond/whatever mine.  More specifically, what do you call a whole in the mountain that is next to a vein of diamonds BEFORE anyone realizes there is diamonds just 3 inches away? And Undiscovered Diamond Mine (UDM) & that, my friends is exactly what Twitter is for Engineers: A UDM (because we all know engineers ♥ acronyms).

 

Let’s break down the 3 ways in which Twitter will go from a UDM to an actual diamond mine:

  1. Twitter is all about Numbers
  2. Twitter has a fairly open & useful API
  3. Twitter can be fun, once you get used to it

 

 

Twitter is all about Numbers:

 

According to TechChrunch, Twitter is attracting roughly 200 Million unique visitors a month & well north of a Billion (with a Capital “B”) Tweets a month.  So far, big numbers, but so what? A Billion Paper Bags of Dog Poo still aren’t valuable.  Unless, of course, 2\% of the originating dogs are fed diamonds, then that means there are 20 Million bags containing diamonds & NOW that is worth something if you can get to it.  Fortunately for Twitter, the tools to separate the diamonds from the poo are pretty darn good.

 

However, let’s go about this the other way.  From the perspective of an “Engineer,” of the roughly 1 Billion people online, how many know something that an Engineer would care about?  Maybe 2\% or roughly 20 Million people? OK, but now how many different things can they tell you? Let’s pretend there are 10,000 “Engineering Knowledge Gems” (or EKGs), that they can tell you, such as what the “/g” flag means on a RegEx string (/g = global or all instances) or where can I get the latest CM6 release for HTC Hero?  Fortunately, we know that Engineers pride themselves on being smart so it is HIGHLY likely that any good engineer would probably know at least 100, like, in Windows 7, if you hold down the <win> key & press the Left or Right arrows, it is übereasy to put 2 different windows side-by-side for comparison purposes.  So, now you only need to follow a few hundred people to get all 10,000 EKGs (given statistical distributions) and that is a very accomplishable number.  Even better, if you are looking for a specific EKG, you can do a quick search in Twitter for it using:

 

http://search.twitter.com

 

For example, when is the official release of MeeGo coming?  As fast as you can type “MeeGo Release” you can find your answer: October (as said by my good friends @MeeGoExperts).  For the interactive part of this Blog, Go ahead & put your own query into Twitter Search.  Did you get what you were looking for?  If not, post it as a comment below & I’ll see what I can do to help.

 

Bottom Line: There are big numbers involved with Twitter & even if only 2\% use Twitter, or 400,000 from are assumed 20 Million that have anything worthwhile to say.  And, with things like #FollowFriday & Search.Twitter.com, dialing the Signal-to-Noise ratio up to a useful level is VERY easy – especially for smart folks like Engineers :)

 

 

Twitter has a fairly open & useful API:

 

Personally, I believe one of the things that made Twitter so successful is they have tried from early on to make it very easy for people to work with them.  That would help to explain the almost STAGGERING LIST of Twitter Apps in existence today.  If you have ANY interest in all about the Twitter API, here is a great place to start:

 

http://dev.twitter.com/doc

 

When you are done reading all the documentations, you can go right in and get Twitter Libraries, from ActionScript/Flash to VB.NET & nearly everything in-between, including Java, PHP, & Ruby.  So, nearly whatever your language of choice, you can get started coding to get whatever it is you want out of Twitter.  Plus, there is a bunch of other ways that you can do a little “creative searching” to get other things, such as All Tweeps with “Engineer” in their Bio.  Specifically, if you are looking to find people with a “WXYZ” in their bio, use this Google search string:

 

intext:"Bio * WXYZ" site:twitter.com

 

Right now, you just get back a big list of >229,000 folks (oddly similar to the answer above), so there is no measure of how popular they are, when their last Tweet was, or other attributes that might make them compelling to follow, but I’m sure a “Twitter Bio Search Tool” will be out by the end of the year because, quite frankly, it’s overdue!  Alternatively, maybe just “bio:WXYZ” will get added to Twitter’s official list of operators.  Regardless, if you want some more tricks like the above, then read this article.

 

 

Twitter can be fun, once you get used to it:

 

Let’s face it, we all have enough work to do.  Just having another way to get information is probably not compelling enough to make an Engineer to want to use it.  However, if we can give them something that makes their easier and is fun to do at the same, then we have a winner.  Unfortunately, at first glance, to most engineers, the “value” of Twitter is not overly apparent.  For example, here’s the current “Trending Topics” on Twitter:

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I may not recognize them all, but the ones I do recognize, I don’t really care about.  So, if an Engineer wants to “check out” Twitter, the only thing seen is things over very little value to Engineers.  Fortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.  In the early 1990’s ≈80\% of the people on the “Inter-Net” (remember when it was written like that?) were men.  Why? Because for a lot of women that were, shall we say, “Geekly-Challenged,” the World Wide Web was all about geeky topics that held very little interest for them (but not our beloved #GeekGirls – they’ve been rocking the Web since Mosaic!).  Like a Redneck at the Opera or a Blueblood at NASCAR – they took one look around and left.  BUT, the Web grew.  Sites like “iVillage.com” came along specifically to give women a place to feel welcome, a place to talk about what they wanted to talk about, not the best packet length to optimize Fast Ethernet connections.  Now, by most reports I’ve seen, women are at least on parity with men & some studies suggest that women spend more time online then men.  But, one could argue, that never would have happened if the web continued to only have content that held little interest to most of them.

 

So, what is a disillusioned Engineer to do?  For now, start small.  Think of Twitter as just another RSS feed – but one that can be very timely.  Also, in the area of “who to follow” – really think about someone before you follow them.  Don’t follow people unless their last 20 Tweets were “mostly” interesting. 

 

Here’s the “Simple 6 Steps to Get Started with Twitter

  1. Sign-up with Twitter (one of the best things about Twitter, is you can change just about everything in your account down the road, from your TwID or handle to your Avatar, background, etc., so no “OMG, this name is for LIFE” fears)
  2. Get Adobe Air (needed for most Twitter Clients)
  3. Get a Twitter Client (I recommend Tweetdeck personally, but Seesmic is also popular & Mixero specifically cites that it is “Reducing the Noise”)
  4. Do a “search” for a topic through the Twitter Website like Linux or Android or WiMAX or PR2 Robot & look at a few people that are Tweeting by opening them up in new Tabs
  5. Just find 3-5 folks that seem to really talk about stuff you care about & follow them
  6. Your Twitter Client will automatically add them to your List

 

That’s it – in between meetings, during boring meetings, or when you just need a little mental break (like a Snickers but for your brain, not your stomach) – switch over to your Twitter Client & see what’s going on.  Of someone says some especially interest, go ahead & use the “ReTweet” or “RT” function to share that out – it literally takes 10 seconds to do:

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(Screenshot from Mixero Twitter Client)

 

Time wise, just spend 15 minutes a day doing Tweeter – 10 minutes reading – 3 minutes “RTing” what you found interesting & 2 minutes trying to find just ONE new Tweep a day.  Do that for a week, and I’m sure you’ll have learned something new or at least made you laugh.  Does that sound like too much work? Here’s a list of folks that I can personally say “bring it” for the Geeky among us:

 

There – 10 great Tweeps for any Geek to follow.  If you have other suggestions – put them in the comments below because “sharing is caring” (rule #1 for social media) :D

Tablet computers seem to be all the rage, making your boxy desktop computer look even less hip. But that doesn't mean the BIOS underneath your “standard PC” is going away. It’s still as important as ever.

 

Touchscreen and tablet computers have been around for years, but for some reason they’ve always been a hard sell. I have personally benefitted from this lack of adoption, recently buying a cast-off Panasonic Toughbook with a lovely 10" touch screen for a mere fifty dollars.

 

But recently some turtleneck wearing hipster with a company named after a piece of fruit produced a pretty cool tablet computer, so the once maligned tablet PC is now the hottest thing since sliced pads … er, bread. Now the computer news is filled with new tablet designs based on Intel Architecture products.

 

Sure, the tablet PC is nothing new to Intel-based products. Products like the Panasonic Toughbook H1 medical tablet pre-dates our fruity friend by several years … but they’ve been part of a specialized market. Recent announcements like the Cisco Cius start blurring the lines between tablet and embedded telecommunications system. The embedded space also features Panel PCs … tablet functionality for more stationary systems.

 

So where the does the BIOS, long associated with expansion cards and keyboard-based interfaces, fit into the world of tablet computing? Well, the same place it’s always been.

At first glance, it’s easy to build an Intel tablet. There are a variety of low-power Intel Atom processors, which can be combined with an off-the-shelf operating system and commodity hardware to fit your particular form factor. So that’s pretty easy … now pick the OS.

 

Here’s where it gets complicated. Choose an established OS like Microsoft Windows 7, adapt an existing Linux distribution to be more tablet friendly or use one of the newer operating systems like MeeGo or Intel’s Android x86 port? As a tablet manufacturer, you may not want to choose right away, or you want the option to quickly switch to a new OS as the tablet market evolves.

 

Even though tablet users may never change the OS, using BIOS allows the tablet developer to quickly boot and test different operating systems. BIOS also opens up the possibility of booting recovery or installation disks from different media, like USB or SD slots.

 

So what happens to the things people associate with BIOS? The old school boot screen full of tech jargon has long since been replaced on most systems by a simple boot logo. With today’s short BIOS boot times, that screen flies by as the OS starts to load.

 

User setup on a tablet depends on the approach the developer wants to take. One approach is a "no touch configuration," removing the BIOS setup all together. Even without a standard BIOS setup screen, the system boot order can change dynamically if USB boot devices are added.

 

Another approach to user setup goes in the completely opposite direction, presenting a fully graphical setup that takes advantage of the touch screen. Companies like AMI provide everything from graphical setup layouts to on-screen keyboards in setup. This is an advantage if a company wants to market a "hackable tablet" to more tech savvy users.

 

So tablets change the form factor, but BIOS still plays the same role in system compatibility and configurability. Users may never see all of the options provided by the BIOS, but developers can use these tools to take full advantage of the Intel ecosystem.

 

Brian Richardson
Senior Technical Marketing Engineer
American Megatrends, Inc.

 

American Megatrends, Inc. (AMI) is an Affiliate member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance.

 

Got a question about BIOS or UEFI? … then it’s time to Ask a BIOS Guy! Find Brian on Twitter (@askabiosguy) or leave your question in the comments. Your BIOS question may be featured in an upcoming ‘Ask a BIOS Guy’ article.

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