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Canonical goes all Internet of Stuff with Ubuntu for DRONES

Robots and such will dance to our tune, hopes Shuttleworth

Getting Ubuntu onto everything from your home router to commercial drones is the next target of Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth.

The Ubuntu daddy’s firm is today expected to announce Ubuntu Core on smart devices, a version of its trimmed down Ubuntu Core that targets the Internet of Stuff.

Ubuntu Core for smart devices features a similar, small footprint – 128MB versus the full-fat 1GB – as last month’s mobile-phone inspired announcement.

Ubuntu Core will be based on Ubuntu 15.04, due in April.

The difference this time, Shuttleworth told The Reg, is the Snappy update mechanism for Core on mobile has been tweaked for devices. Snappy replaced the standard apt-get model for updates and modules, but otherwise the system uses the familiar Ubuntu libraries pushed out as wanted or needed.

Canonical is looking at consumer robotics, drones and home gateways like media players, Wi-Fi routers and intelligent heating systems with Core. The firm is targeting such systems as a redoubt of proprietary embedded systems and fragmented Linux in the belief that Ubuntu can become a standardized platform that’s accessible to ordinary developers already versed in such a mainstream distro.

The hope, according to Shuttleworth, is devs can build embedded systems without needing to work with proprietary code tailored to unique hardware.

Ubuntu Core works on ARMv7 and X86-64, requiring 600MB RAM and 4GB of flash.

Systems running Ubuntu will receive security and systems updates more regularly, says Canonical, as they are coming from those stewarding Ubuntu rather than relying on periodic-to-non-existent security or firmware updates from device makers, or saddling start-ups with the need to maintain the plumbing.

Systems running Ubuntu Core could, in theory, be updated centrally by Canonical against another vulnerability like Shellshock, which struck last year, so freeing device makers’ devs from needing to build and deploy fixes while still protecting devices against potential hacks.

The idea, too, is that devs can build new apps for such systems, creating new market places of apps.

It used to be that Linux was the disruptive force in embedded, bringing a more mainstream platform to a notoriously closed and proprietary world. Canonical hopes to become the dominant Linux at the expense of other distros.

“We would like this to be the preferred platform for anybody creating a new device – that’s realistic,” Shuttleworth said. “Ninety per cent of those devices are Linux and those developers are familiar with cloud environments…. We felt we needed to provide an Ubuntu that makes it a preferred platform for shipping those devices.” ®

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