An application interface that provides enhanced capabilities for the development of realtime Linux applications has been announced this week.
Real Time Application Interface (RTAI) version 1.3 will also make it easier for developers to write and debug those applications. It will be made available under the Free Software Foundation's LGPL open source licence.
The release extends the ability of Linux to replace proprietary operating systems that run realtime systems, which are common in sectors such as telecoms, medical electronics, weapons systems and particularly industrial automation. Its use is expected to be extended to web servers.
Martin Brampton, chief analyst at Bloor Research, said: "Providing realtime availability and reliability in Linux will allow users to move away from the use of tricky proprietary systems, that have to be customised."
"If users have access to an operating system like Linux, they would have full access so that they can know what they are doing and the development process," he said.
According to Brampton, consistency in performance is far more important for realtime systems than blazingly fast performance. Realtime Linux distributions from vendors like Lynx are already in use in applications like process automation, and the enhancement of the realtime interface can only push Linux further into this area, he added.
RTAI now includes dynamic memory allocation, an enhanced interface, and Perl bindings for soft realtime task development.
With dynamic memory allocation, realtime applications running under RTAI are able to dynamically allocate and free memory from a pool using the management module's standard API. Previously, dynamic memory allocation has not been possible in any of the realtime Linux kernels, and calls to allocate and free memory from realtime tasks had to be avoided. Thus realtime applications were required to allocate memory usage before entering realtime operation.
The interface development allows users to access information on the state of the application and RTAI realtime service kernel modules, including the scheduler, FIFOs (First-in, First-out), interrupts, and memory manager.
Features that allow developers to build a realtime task under the memory protection of Linux and dynamic switching of tasks between the hard/soft realtime modes from within an application, have also been added.
Enhancements have also been added to ensure that the system recovers gracefully after the crash of a Linux task.
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