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Startup unveils tiny “Linux-like” OS for Internet appliances

Nov 29, 2000 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

DSPsoft Inc. (Sunnyvale, CA) has unveiled UnixCE, a small footprint “Linux-like” operating system for resource constrained Internet appliances and mobile devices. The company's founder and CEO, Vasant Kanchan, claims the new OS is “the smallest Unix-like kernel that contains a built-in X-Windows compatible API.” Kanchan says UnixCE can run out of just 340KB of RAM on an i386 CPU. At that size, it includes a Fat32 file system, TCP/IP stack, Unix APIs (signals, vm, mmap, etc.), core Xlib, plus support for zipped executables and libraries. A demo version of UnixCE (v1.1) that runs on a desktop PC is available for download (binaries only).

Kanchan founded DSPsoft in early 1998, with an intention to address the needs of the emerging “appliance market” based on his previous experience with embedded systems and DSP technologies. Perceiving Linux to be deficient for the tight RAM and Flash memory and processor budgets of mobile devices, and relative to the real-time performance needs of mobile device communications and streaming audio, Kanchan decided to develop a small real-time Unix/Linux compatible kernel and equip it with the basic tools needed for “cheap Internet appliance” applications like cell phones and PDAs.

Kanchan describes the result as “a compact, real-time operating system with a Unix/X11 API, designed specifically for the Internet appliance market.” UnixCE can boot from a floppy and run X11/Xlib applications in less than 2MB of RAM, according to Kanchan. The company intends to port UnixCE to whatever hardware is needed by its customers, and already has versions that work on i386 (“X86”) and NEC VR4121 (MIPS) processors.

Unlike Linux, UnixCE is proprietary software which is made available to device manufacturers on a royalty basis. As a result of the compatibility with Linux APIs, development of UnixCE applications can take place on a Linux platform, using standard Linux tools. “Source code will be made available to licensees who require it,” says Kanchan, who expects that his company will provide NRE-based software development services to most manufacturers who use his OS.

Besides being CEO, Kanchan functions as UnixCE architect and directs a team of programmers located in India who are doing the bulk of the development work. Although he has thus far funded the project entirely himself, Kanchan says he's now starting to look for outside investment to accelerate the growth of his new company.

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