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FAQ - Frequenly Asked Questions

Q. Why did you do this?
A. We have been very active in the development and maintenance of uClinux for some years. uClinux is a set of kernel patches against the mainstream Linux kernel that allows Linux to operate without an MMU (Memory Management Unit) for deeply embedded applications. There are a lot of low-cost microprocessors out there that fit this bill. Three things came about that made us think that it was time to form a new embedded Linux distribution:
  1. The gradual incorporation of uClinux patches starting with the 2.5 kernel
  2. Increasing numbers of MMUful microprocessors that are at a pricepoint suitable for deeply embedded products
  3. For quite some time we've been working closely with many of the chip vendors such as Intel, Motorola, and Hitachi to name a few. We're always doing board support for their latest development boards. Other companies charge a lot of money for these.
We realised that it was becoming difficult to find a distribution that met the needs of embedded Linux developers who didn't want to pay a lot for sophisticated development environments. It's free, right? We decided to bundle up the core kernel and tools that we've been using ourselves in our custom design solutions that we've been doing for customers all over the world. You can take these tools for free and do your own development. Of course, you're also welcome to engage SnapGear's services and take advantage of our immense experience, particularly if you need custom hardware, manufacturing, fulfillment etc. :)
Q. Why embedded Linux at all?
A. For many reasons, too numerous to enumerate here. Mature code base, well-tested code, vast support, free tools, standard APIs, small and modular footprints, real-time extensions, etc. etc. Take your pick.
Q. Will my applications be "tainted" and become open source too?
A. Not necessarily, it is possible to be a good citizen with the GPL while retaining your own proprietary intellectual property. However, how you use this distribution is up to you. For SnapGear Custom Solutions customers we advise the best way to approach a particular application as it depends a great deal on individual circumstances.
Q. Why not use Monta Vista's Linux?
A. SnapGear Embedded Linux supports a broad range of architectures, is based upon the mainstream Linux kernel. And it is free. :-)
Q. Why not use Red Hat's eCos instead?
A. eCos is a fine product but it ain't Linux... there's only a relatively small group of people working on eCos compared to Linux so the leverage is correspondingly smaller (smaller pool of drivers, network stacks, applications, experienced developers, etc.). Stuff is portable between the two environments, but that requires additional effort.
Q. Why not use uClinux instead?
A. uClinux is great - remember that's what makes up a significant part of the SnapGear Linux distribution. But uClinux is limited to MMUless microprocessors. There are increasing numbers of low-cost processors such as the SuperH family that have an MMU and can run embedded Linux. The SnapGear distribution caters to a broader range of architecture targets essentially.
Q. Why not just roll my own embedded Linux?
A. That's an awful lot of work! By the time you've spent man-months/man-years trimming down Linux and going through the learning curve you're going to pretty much end up with something like we've produced. If you have commercial project deadlines why not take advantage of someone else's expertise?
Q. Can I pay you to help me?

A. Maybe. We tend not to do small jobs or isolated bits and pieces. We generally provide turn-key hardware / firmware solutions for customers that incorporate design, manufacturing, fulfillment etc. for runs of product from 1,000 units upwards. Integral to that service is providing the customer with developer assistance and custom engineering. If you are doing your own hardware and just need the occasional question answered we recommmend either getting your answers for free from developer forums or hiring a consultant. www.ucdot.org is an excellent place to start.

You are welcome to tour our Custom Solutions page to determine if we are a good fit for your needs. There is an enquiry form that you can fill in which pretty much tells you what you'll need to know.