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Linux 2004
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Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th August
Leeds, West Yorkshire

Shigeki Ouchi - Software R&D Group, RICOH Company Ltd.

Porting Linux onto a Digital Camera

Nowadays, Embedded Linux is getting more and more widely used for various devices, but a digital camera has not been tackled. And there is a digital camera, RDC-i700, which is one of the digital cameras manufactured by Ricoh. It has a 3.2M pixel CCD, both PCMCIA and CF slots, and a large 3.5 inch touch screen LCD. It originally works on VxWorks, which is one of the famous RTOS (Real-Time Operating System). It seemed to be interesting to port Linux onto this camera.

That's why we started porting Linux onto it, making it become the world's first digital camera powered by Linux. This work also made it a programmable camera. Once it becomes a programmable device, many VARs (Value Added Resellers) or individual programmers may write a lot of useful software for it. Then it might become a good platform for business imaging use.

Thanks to free software communities, we could use a lot of existing resources, including SH-Linux kernel, boot loader, a lot of userland programs, e.g. uClibc and embedded window system. But we still had several things to be modified, newly implemented or at least selected from several possibilities in consideration of limited and special hardware resources, because the architecture of digital camera is totally different from PC. Using Big-endian mode was one of such issue. There exist a lot of SH-Linux users, but almost all people of them are using it in Little-endian mode, so we needed some fix for Big-endian. And timing critical hardware, that includes shutter, iris and electric flash, and non-linear access to Imaging RAM were also problems to be solved.

Although we've almost finished implemenation work, we still have some remaining issues. Power management is one of the biggest one, and we have to implement power managing function into each camera-related device driver. Packaging of userland programs should be also taken care of. But remaining issues are not only technical one. Since we are now preparing for distributing the source code, we still need some more co-ordination in our company. We also have to think of how to make and support a developing community.

In the last part of my paper, I suggested some feedback to hardware design persons. This RDC-i700 hardware was designed in order to run a RTOS (Real-Time Operating System), which meant that some parts might not be designed so that Linux fits well. If it would be possible to design camera hardware with view of Linux as an operating system, it should be easier to implement camera-related peripherals drivers and to port a window system, for example linear access to Imaging RAM.

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