CONSUMER electronic devices are the star of the yearly International CES but this year’s show saw Linux playing a strong supporting role.
Many people don’t know it, but they’re already using Linux in their day-to-day lives by way of one of the most ubiquitous devices—the smart phone. If you use an Android phone, then you’re already using a specialized version of Linux—along with about 1.1 billion other folk who bought an Android device in 2014. (That, says market research company Gartner, compares to 262,615 iPads and iPhones sold in the same year.)
A number of products and developments at this month’s CES, however, extended the reach of Linux even further.
In Las Vegas, Panasonic unveiled the first smart TV to use the Linux-based Firefox OS as a platform for smart TV apps that users will be able to download from Mozilla’s Firefox Marketplace. Firefox OS isn’t the only Linux kid on the TV block, however, going up against LG’s webOS, Samsung’s Tizen and Google’s Android TV platform, which will be used by Philips, Sharp and Sony.
Another cool Linux-based device announced at the CES this year was the Compute Stick from Intel, a fully-functional PC that you can carry in your pocket. The USB device includes a 1.3GHz quad-core Atom processor, 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM and 8GB of storage. The Compute Stick has an HDMI port, a USB port, a MicroSD slot, a Micro USB port, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi.
Plug the Compute Stick into the HDMI port of a monitor, use a wireless mouse and keyboard and you’re set to go. Intel has a Windows version of the Compute Stick too, which features more memory and storage.
On the first day of the show, Microchip Technology Inc. announced that it has joined the Linux Foundation and Automotive Grade Linux to develop software for the connected car.
The agreement should accelerate innovation for automobile infotainment systems, said Dan Termer, vice president of the company’s automotive information systems division.
At the same time, the audio company Harman showed off a Linux-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system for entry-level cars that supports Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink connectivity.
The IVI system for entry- to mid-level cars comes on the heels of the company’s IVI for high-end vehicles introduced last year.
Also at the CES, LG announced a smart watch that uses the Linux-based webOS system. The smart watch, developed in cooperation with car manufacturer Audi, will enable users to control various functions of their Audi vehicles.
Not for the financially challenged is Sony’s ZX2, a high-end Walkman aimed at hardcore audiophiles. The Android-powered device announced at the CES comes with 128GB of memory, a micro SD slot, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a battery that can power up to 60 hours of playback.
Finally, in one of the more esoteric (and least peaceful) uses of open-source technology, the Austin, Texas-based company TrackingPoint announced the Linux-based Mile Maker 338TP, a rifle that uses image processing and tracking technology to all but eliminate human error when firing a weapon.
The Mile Maker gets its name from its improved range of 1,800 yards. Two years ago, the company introduced a precision guided firearm that could hit a target consistently at 1,200 yards, with the help of a smart scope that displayed weather conditions, wind speeds, and other target information, and only fired when the crosshairs were lined up properly on the target.
This year’s model improves the range to 1,800 yards with more advanced hardware and better robust trajectory calculation software.
TrackingPoint Inc. made waves last year when it coupled its precision-guided firearm with Google Glass technology to create a weapon that could shoot around corners and from behind low walls.
In a less violent vein, Stern, the only remaining large designer and manufacturer of new pinball tables, introduced Wrestlemania, a Linux-based pinball machine that can be easily upgraded via the USB port. Company officials said that while their previous tables used custom micro-controllers, future Stern tables will all run on Linux.
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