Time to pay up, Bill

Yesterday, I was regaling my colleagues with an urban legend about Hershey's kisses. It goes something like this: Decades ago, factory workers wrapped the kisses by hand. To speed up the process, some workers would lick the bottom of each kiss before placing it on the wrapping paper — this practice ensured that the kiss stayed in place while being wrapped.

People laughed (uncomfortably) and my colleague Bill Keeler spoke up: "Okay, Paul, if you can write a blog entry connecting that story to QNX, I'll ship you a bag of Hershey's kisses, gratis."

Bill, it was all too easy: I simply googled "QNX Hershey". The first page of search results pointed to the LinkedIn page of someone who designed a QNX-based control system for — you guessed it — Hershey's Chocolate.

To rub salt (or should I say glucose) in the wound, QNX also served the OS for a recipe management system used by Cadbury Chocolate in Toronto.

Bill, is that connection good enough for you? If so, you still have an hour or two to mail me the kisses before Christmas. :-)

MulticoreInfo selects best multi-core posts of 2009

In 2009, the folks at MulticoreInfo published 1800 blog posts on multi-core computing. A couple of days ago, they selected what they believe were the top 10 posts of the year.

I haven't finished reviewing the selected posts, but I've already bookmarked a couple of them. One offers an introduction to parallel computing and other topics; the other explores the difference between concurrency and parallelism — two words that people often use interchangeably. (Count me among the guilty.)

You'll also find links to OpenMP, OpenCL, CUDA, MATLAB, Grand Central Dispatch, and many other topics, both introductory and advanced. To view the article, click here.


Solar Impulse plane completes first test flight

As I mentioned in an earlier post, QNX Software Systems is the realtime operating system provider for the Solar Impulse project, which intends to fly a solar plane around the world in 2012.

The champagne corks were popping on December 3, because on that day, the flagship aircraft for the Solar Impulse project left the ground for the first time. The flight was just a ”flea hop” — 350 metres in length at an altitude of 1 meter — but it was an important milestone nonetheless.

Now that the plane has proved airworthy, the Solar Impulse team will dismantle it and transport it to the airfield in Payerne, Switzerland. Starting in early 2010, the plane will make its first solar test flights — the solar panels weren’t used in the initial test flight — and the team will gradually increase flight duration until the plane makes its first night flight using solar energy.

Here's a video of the test flight; the best part starts at the 0:50 mark:

LTE Connected Car: The word cloud

Just for fun, I decided to create a word cloud of the LTE Connected Car press release.

In this word cloud, size indicates frequency: the larger the word, the more often it appears in the press release. Click the image to get the bigger picture:

Note the lack of self-congratulatory references: Alcatel-Lucent, QNX, and other ng Connect members figure very small in this word cloud, whereas the key concepts — car, LTE, connectivity — loom large. I like that. It shows that the companies issuing the press release were willing to focus on the topic at hand, rather than on themselves. Too many press releases do the exact opposite.

To create this word cloud, I used Wordle. It's a fun tool that lets you create a word cloud out of any web page or piece of text. It also lets you control a number of parameters, including fonts, colors, and layout. In this case, I filtered out many of the lesser-used words in the release to improve the signal-to-noise ratio and to make the cloud more visually attractive.


Why I didn't bike to work today

I must admit, I left my bike in the garage today. In fact, I didn't even bother going to work. I just stayed home, put on a pot of coffee, and made myself nice and comfortable.

The morning didn't start out that way. In fact, I was biting at the bit to get out and get going. But then I peered out the window. The rest, as they say, is history...

Click photo to enlarge

Hm, I think I left the key to the snowblower around here somewhere...

GE locomotives pull ahead with QNX

Sheer brute strength. That, to me, sums up a train locomotive. After all, how else do you haul 20 million pounds of freight up a mountain?

As it turns out, it takes more than raw horsepower. Case in point: the Evolution locomotives from GE. To my surprise, each Evolution locomotive employs 20 QNX-based Pentium-class systems to monitor and control the diesel engine, traction motors, compressors, battery chargers, radiator fans, and numerous other systems. According to an article in Design News, these systems “measure and check 2,500 to 5,000 parameters with data latency varying from tens of microseconds to tens of seconds, depending on the system…”

Why all the compute power? Because on its own, raw physical power doesn’t cut it. For instance, each axle on the locomotive uses a 1000 horsepower inverter to regulate torque and slippage. Too much slippage, and the wheel burns “through the rail in a hurry.”

Lots of horsepower, and lots of compute power to boot.

To learn more about these locomotives, check out the article here and the GE brochure here. To learn more about how QNX is used in control systems, check out the QNX industrial software platform webpage here.


Rx for ACVA (Acute Computer Virus Anxiety)

Earlier this week, my computer got hit by a virus — and a nasty one at that.

Being the calm, collected person that I am, I immediately went ballistic. Which resulted in a Class A headache. Which degraded into neck spasms. Which made me crabby. Which made everyone around me crabby. Which made me even crabbier.

But here's the thing: Nothing could lift me out of my funk. And believe me, I tried everything: diazepam, muscle relaxants, jogging, jumping jacks, Jack Daniels, aromatherapy, massage therapy, music therapy, cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, Oprah, peyote, naturopaths, green tea, Ovaltine, Prozac, Muzak, Mongolian throat singing, transcendental meditation, mystical levitation — the whole nine yards. Nothing worked.

Finally, my IS department intervened. They handed me a tool that had proved efficacious in similar situations and encouraged me to engage in some, ahem, therapeutic behavior:

In case you're wondering, I feel much better now, thank you.


Cool Eclipse CDT shortcuts

A sneak peak at an upcoming Eclipse webinar

I’m totally addicted to PhotoShop. But, like every other PhotoShop user, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never really master the program. It simply has too many tools, any of which can be used in a thousand different ways.

Eclipse CDT is a lot like that. It’s so feature rich that you can take years to become a true power user.

My colleague Andy Gryc, who has helped customers with their Eclipse issues, has seen this problem first hand. And it gave him an idea: What if he canvassed a number of advanced Eclipse users and collected their favorite productivity tips?

Well, he did just that, and the result is a new webinar called “Hot Tips and Tricks for the Eclipse IDE.” I just got an early look at the content, and it’s shaping up to be a great session for anyone who wants to squeeze the most out of their Eclipse-based toolset.

Andy plans to cover automatic code formatting, code folding, advanced search, automatic refactoring, call hierarchy navigation, plug-ins, keyboard shortcuts, custom breakpoint actions, and many other techniques for boosting productivity — more than two dozen topics in all.

Sample techniques
To give you a taste, here are a few techniques that Andy will cover. Keep in mind that I've chosen some of the simpler examples — the webinar will also explore more advanced topics.

Viewing definitions and prototypes
If you press <Ctrl> and hover your pointer over an identifier, it transforms into a hyperlink. Simply click the link to view the identifier’s definition or prototype:

Prompting for command-line arguments
To prompt for command-line arguments when launching an executable, go to the program’s Launch Configuration, click the C/C++ Program Arguments tab, and insert the ${string_prompt} literal:

Detaching views
If you use multiple monitors, detaching a view from the main window can come in really handy. Simply right-click on the header and select Detach:

Again, this is just a sample — Andy will also cover template proposals, variable directory paths, automated header file include, function completion, automatic structure completion, expansion of #define’s, version compare, and many other techniques.

The webinar occurs Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 12:00 noon EST. For more information or to register, click here.

Remember, though, to fire up your Eclipse environment before entering the webinar. That way, you can try out the techniques in real time.

Honestly, I'm not making this up, Part III

When you issue a press release announcing support for ARM-based industrial processors, you just never know who will cover the news. Case in point:

BTW, if you're interested in QNX support for these processors — whether out of concern for humanity or for your next industrial project — you can download a QNX board support package here or here.

For the full text of the press release, click here.


Cool browser keyboard shortcuts

Hey, are you one of those people who still types the complete URL of every website they visit? Well, stop doing that and use the following shortcuts.

For instance, if you type qnx in your browser address field, then press <Ctrl>-<Enter>, your browser will immediately go to:


Firefox provides extensions to this shortcut to help you jump to .org and .net sites. For instance, if you type ngconnect, then press <Ctrl>-<Shift>-<Enter>, you get:


And if you type sourceforge, then press <Shift>-<Enter>, you get:


In this case, the actual URL is http://sourceforge.net, but the resolution is handled automatically.

These shortcuts provide a nice complement to the automatic URL completion that most browsers now support.

How about you? Do you have any browser shortcuts that you'd like to share?


QNX circa 1999


Totally random skill sets

  • So fast, he needs two bassists to keep up
  • How to make really thin glass pipes (don't try this at home)
  • How not to behave when the camera crew shows up


Totally random

  • From the information superhighway to your local highway
  • Put a tiger bunny in your tank
  • Let's see: I've 3 million Lego bricks, some spare time, and a degree in architecture. Hm....


Dataweek honors QNX fastboot technology with product of the year award

This just in: Dataweek magazine has unveiled its product of the year awards, and QNX fastboot technology is one of the winners.

If you aren't familiar with QNX fastboot technology, it allows x86 systems, including those based on the Intel Atom, to boot wicked fast. Often in a second or less.

This isn't the first time QNX fastboot technology has taken home top honors. A year ago, it received a "Most Innovative Software for the Intel Atom Processor” award from Intel.

A picture, or should I say a video, is worth a thousand words, so I invite you to check out the fastboot demos that I've posted on this blog:
Once you've finished viewing the talkies, download this whitepaper or simply view this article on Automotive DesignLine to take a peak under the hood of this technology.

For the complete list of Dataweek winners, click here.

To view all my blog posts on QNX fastboot technology, click here.


LTE Connected Car: The media's take

I've noticed something: Whenever I discuss the LTE Connected Car, I focus on all the cool stuff that the car can access from the Cloud. But really, that's only part of the story.

For instance, in his coverage of the LTE Connected Car, WIRED blogger Eliot Van Buskirk focuses on the information that the car can upload to the Cloud — information that other cars can then take advantage of. In effect, each car becomes a sensor, helping other cars to avoid traffic jams, alerting road crews to potholes, and providing, in Van Buskirk's words, "a crowdsourced version of what traffic helicopters do today."

So, in the interest of offering you a more complete (and less unidirectional!) discussion of this story, here is what WIRED and a number of other notable publications are saying about the LTE Connected Car:
For even more media coverage on the LTE Connected Car, click here.


LTE Connected Car: Zooming in on the virtual mechanic

Yesterday, I took you on a tour of some applications in the LTE Connected Car. One app that I mentioned, but didn't provide images for, is the virtual mechanic.

Before we go any further, let's get something out of the way: The virtual mechanic won't fix your car for you. You'll still need a flesh-and-bones grease monkey to do that. That said, the virtual mechanic can tell you when things are going south and help you take appropriate action — before the problem escalates.

Low oil pressure... yikes!

The virtual mechanic gets OBD-II codes from the vehicle bus to display the status of your brakes, tires, power train, electrical systems, fluids, and so on. In this case, it's telling me that the engine oil pressure is low:

Click to enlarge.

What to do? Well, I'm a Major General in the army of the mechanically challenged, so I immediately tap the fuel pump icon at the bottom of the screen to display a map of local service stations:

Alternately, I could tap on the dealership icon (Toyota, in this case) and find directions to the nearest, well, dealership:

The virtual mechanic lets you zoom in on specific systems. For instance, in the following screen, I've just asked it to show me where to add brake fluid. (You think I'd be more worried about the low washer-fluid warning, but did I mention I'm mechanically challenged?)

The virtual mechanic is a component of the QNX CAR application platform, which provides most of the software for the LTE Connected Car.


Screenshots: Putting the LTE Connected Car into focus

I posted some photos of the LTE Connected Car yesterday, but they weren't all that sharp. As a result, everyone had to squinch their eyes really hard to make out what was going on. So, for the promotion of good eye health everywhere, here are some nice, crisp screen captures of the car's user interface.

At first glance, some of these images might appear a bit soft, but if you click on 'em, you'll definitely see the bigger (and sharper) picture.

Vehicle diagnostics
First up is the main screen for accessing vehicle diagnostics. Note the Virtual Mechanic app (upper right), which gets OBD-II trouble codes from the vehicle bus and displays them in an interactive graphic. By simply tapping on the graphic, the driver can zoom in on areas of concern or find the closest dealership:

Click to enlarge.

Google local search
Next up is Google local search, which displays local points of interest (POIs) to help drivers and passengers find nearby restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters, parks, ATMs, hospitals, and so on. Note that the system would fetch these POIs from a Cloud-based database that is continually refreshed with new data, rather than from a DVD that can go quickly out of date:

Home monitoring and control
Forgot to engage the burglar alarm before you left for the cottage? Want to see if Muffy is chewing the sofa again? This home automation app is just the ticket:

Pandora Internet radio
And for those who prefer to listen to what they like, and nothing else, the car also comes with a Pandora app:

This is just a sampling of the many applications in the LTE Connected Car. For additional screenshots from the car, click here, and for screenshots of other in-car applications based on the QNX CAR application platform, click here. (As mentioned in my post yesterday, the QNX CAR platform provides the runtime environment for all of the apps in the LTE Connected Car.)

Look ma, no wires: The making of the ng Connect LTE Connected Car

Hey, have you ever watched any of those "making of" videos that take you behind the scenes to show how a movie was made? Don't know about you, but they typically ruin the movie for me.

For instance, I loved "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" when it first came out. But, stupid me, I made the mistake of watching a video that shows how wires created the illusion that the movie's actors were flying through the air as they kicked serious butt. From then on, the movie never held the same magic for me.

Well, here is one "making of" video that won't spoil your fun. It's definitely promotional in nature, but it captures some of the real enthusiasm behind the Connected Car project. But here's the best part: With the Connected Car, the magic happens without any wires. It's all about what happens when a fat wireless pipe based on 4G/LTE transforms the car into what QNX CEO Dan Dodge calls "a first-class citizen of the Cloud."

Enough blather. Roll the film:


A look inside the ng Connect LTE Connected Car

Yeah, I know: "ng Connect LTE Connected Car" sounds a little repetitious. But the emphasis on connectivity is apropos. This concept car, a joint project of QNX and Alcatel-Lucent, is all about exploring what happens when you connect cars to 4G/LTE wireless broadband networks.

Take, for example, voice recognition in the car. Today, it’s a relatively primitive affair, using grammars and speech models limited by onboard processing and storage. But once you add a reliable, high-speed pipe like LTE, the car’s infotainment unit can use a sophisticated, server-based system that lets the driver use natural language. Suddenly, ease of use goes up and driver distraction goes down.

This is but one small example. Other in-car applications could include:
  • on-demand movies, streamed or downloaded
  • access to personally recorded TV programs via Cloud storage
  • in-vehicle Internet radio and on-demand music stores
  • multi-player online gaming
  • remote control of home systems: security, climate control, lighting, etc.
  • a Wi-Fi hotspot that allows personal devices to connect to the Cloud
  • GPS navigation augmented by Google Maps point-of-interest indicators
When people see the Connected Car, the first thing they ask is, "So, when can I get one?". But that's not the point. The Connected Car is, in fact, a proving ground for next-generation automotive apps. QNX and Alcatel-Lucent created it to ensure that, when LTE networks become pervasive 2 to 4 years from now, automakers will be ready to deliver applications that take full advantage of this broadband technology.

Guided tour

Enough background. Let's take a look at the car itself.

The first thing you notice is that it contains 4 screens, two in front and two in back. These all operate independently, allowing each car occupant to interact with their own applications and content. In fact, each screen can remember a user's preferences and settings — the idea is to deliver a user experience that isn't only connected, but personalized as well.

For example:

Driver screen — Access to advanced navigation, vehicle diagnostics, hands-free communication, and other driver-centric services:

Front passenger screen — Access to home control, "myPVR", and other applications:

Backseat screens — Access to on-demand video, gaming, social networking, and a full range of other services:

QNX Software Systems provided the software foundation for all the infotainment systems in the Connected Car. This includes the operating system, touchscreen user interfaces, streaming media players for YouTube and Pandora, navigation system with Google local search, Bluetooth and portable device connectivity, multimedia playback, handsfree integration, climate controls, Adobe Flash games, application store technology, and a virtual mechanic. All components are based on the company’s QNX CAR application platform.

Atlantic Records, chumby, Kabillion also contributed applications to the Connected Car.

For details on the Connected Car project, check out the ng Connect website.

I'll report more on this project in the coming days and weeks.


Toyota to ship vehicles with QNX-based infotainment system

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to a new, scalable infotainment system from Harman. Based on the QNX CAR application platform, the system employs a modular architecture that allows automakers to offer infotainment features at a range of price points.

It seems Toyota was some impressed with the system's design. Because yesterday, Harman revealed that Toyota will deploy the system in vehicles for the European market, starting in 2011.

According to Harman CEO Dinesh Paliwal, this marks the first time a Japanese automaker has equipped its vehicles with an infotainment system made by a non-Japanese company.

What my colleagues are up to...


Virtual instrument cluster or digital instrument cluster: What will it be?

I've blogged several times on the new generation of automotive instrument clusters, which replace mechanical gauges with software-controlled LCD displays. Almost invariably, I refer to these displays as digital instrument clusters. My employer, QNX Software Systems, which makes software for these displays, follows the same practice (see a recent press release for an example).

In every case, the display in question looks something like this:

As opposed to something like this:

Here's my problem: "digital cluster" is so 1980. It reeks of segment displays. It says that flashing digits constitute the prime visual characteristic of the device. Whereas the next-generation, LCD-based clusters I've been discussing are highly pictorial. They display icons, backup-camera video, navigation maps, and all kinds of other information. They can even reconfigure themselves according to road conditions or drive mode.

In fact, as the above example illustrates, these clusters often look like traditional physical displays — an illusion achieved through deft use of Adobe Flash, OpenGL ES, and other graphics technologies. That makes them virtual instrument clusters in my book.

Not everyone likes to call them virtual clusters, mind you. My colleague Andy Gryc, who knows more about these devices than I could ever hope to learn, says that "virtual" makes it sound like the cluster really isn't there. But to me, that's exactly the point. The cluster you see in front of you doesn't have a corporeal existence — it's an image, a trompe-l'œil.

What goes on beneath the display — realtime data collection, etc. — is still very real, of course, but the part you see is an illusion. An attractive illusion that offers many usability benefits over a traditional cluster, but an illusion nonetheless.

So what do you think? Is digital instrument cluster a massive misnomer? Am I just stirring up a tempest in a virtual teapot?

Postscript: For a (humorous) trip down memory lane, click here to check out an online gallery of 80s-era digital clusters.


"QNX, meet Mark Hamill..."

On its own, winning an Adobe MAX award is pretty cool. But here is what makes it even cooler: Members of the QNX team got to rub shoulders — literally — with Mark Hamill. And I have a photo to prove it:

In case you're wondering how Mark got into the picture, it's simple: He was the master of ceremonies for the Adobe MAX awards dinner.

Okay, before I go, two bits of trivia:


Moon bombed; little green men ticked

“They’re going to do WHAT?!,” I bellowed.

So okay, maybe I didn’t exactly bellow. And maybe I didn't even raise my voice all that much. But trust me, I uttered the question with heartfelt incredulity.

It all started when I got home this evening. I was tired, I was hungry, and I was looking forward to a nice warm welcome from my family. That’s not too much to ask, right?

Instead, the first thing I hear when I get in the door is, “Hey dad, did you hear about NASA?”

“Of course,” I say, “The dudes that do the space shuttle, the space station, and all that other space stuff.” (I'm annoying like that.)

“No, no,” my son says, “I’m not asking if you heard of them, I’m asking if you heard what they’re going to do tomorrow.”

“I give up. What are they going to do?”

“They’re going to bomb the moon.”

“They’re going to do WHAT?!” I bellow… oh, hold on, I think we already went over that part.

I must confess, I made most of this up. Except for the bit about bombing the moon. That part is real.

Tomorrow morning, at approximately 4:30 am Pacific time, the Centaur upper stage of an Atlas V rocket will plow into the moon. The impact will create a debris plume that rises above the lunar surface. Four minutes later, a spacecraft that previously separated from the Centaur will fly through the debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth. That spacecraft will then plow into the lunar surface and create a second plume.

So why is NASA spending precious tax dollars to create all this mayhem? Because of water. Or, more precisely, the suspicion that water exists below the moon's surface.

You see, if any water, hydrocarbons, or organics exist in the debris, they will become exposed to sunlight. The sunlight will then vaporize these items and break them down into their basic components. Spectrometers can then determine the amount and distribution of water in the debris plume -- if, indeed, any such water exists.

If you think I'm pulling your leg, check out the LCROSS page on the NASA website. You'll see that I'm telling the truth.

Unless, of course, you're one of those folks that refuse to believe the Apollo moon landings were real.

Um... they were, weren't they?


QNX CAR Takes Home Adobe MAX Award

We won! We won! We freakin' won!!!

Sorry... I just had to get that out of my system. A few minutes ago, the Adobe twitter stream revealed that the QNX CAR application platform has won the Adobe MAX Award (mobile category) for its innovative use of Adobe Flash technology.

I've already blogged a couple of times (see here and here) on why QNX CAR's implementation of Adobe Flash is a game changer not only for car makers and car drivers, but also for the worldwide Flash developer community — so I won't bore you with the details once again.

Instead, allow me to congratulate everyone at QNX who has helped make the QNX CAR application platform such a success. And kudos to Adobe and to the Adobe Flash community for recognizing QNX CAR as the next big platform for distributing Adobe Flash content, applications, and video.

p.s. If the QNX webmaster is reading this, time to update the QNX trophy case.


QNX celebrates 10 years in the auto business

I knew I was forgetting something, but couldn't put my finger on it. Then I remembered: September marked the 10th anniversary of QNX's entry into the automotive business.

In fact, September 14 is something of an official anniversary. On that day in 1999, Motorola unveiled mobileGT, an automotive reference platform based on the QNX Neutrino RTOS. For the first time, QNX publicly threw its hat into the automotive ring.

Being the (somewhat organized) pack rat that I am, it took only a few minutes to dig into my archives and find the announcement. Click to enlarge:

Now here's the thing. The Motorola unit responsible for mobileGT no longer exists. The IBM unit responsible for the Java layer no longer exists. Embedded Planet, if I remember correctly, eventually morphed into another company.

QNX, on the other hand, has not only survived, but managed to thrive in the automotive marketplace. A decade later, it has licensed its software for more than 10 million vehicle systems and built a customer list that starts with Audi and ends with Volkswagen — with precious few blanks in between.

I'm a longtime QNX employee — and a marketing guy to boot — so if I attempt to explain why this is so, you'll hear all the expected platitudes. So I won't even try.

Besides, 10 years of constant growth in the automotive business speaks for itself.

New car infotainment system gears up with QNX middleware

Recently, I blogged on some way cool infotainment systems for Mercedes and BMW vehicles. But if you’re anything like me (read “cheap”), the car you drive is smaller than an S-Class and humbler than a Z4 — and much less expensive than either. In my case, it's an 8-year old Neon.

Now, I have no plans to replace the Neon anytime soon. In fact, I still rather like it. But it would be nice to think that, when I do buy a new car, it will offer some of the same infotainment goodies as a Mercedes, but without the attendant sticker shock.

Enter a new, scalable infotainment platform from Harman International. Based on the QNX Neutrino RTOS, the platform “fulfills a commitment to modularize our infotainment expertise,” says Harman CEO Dinesh Paliwal.

Translation: Automakers can mix and match a number of pre-integrated and pre-tested modules to address a range of price points. High-end cars can include all or most of the modules, while Neon-class cars can include a subset.

Using QNX middleware, the system works with a variety of storage devices (iPods, thumb drives, CDs/DVDs, etc.); offers Internet radio and other Cloud-based applications; and provides a dynamic user interface. From what I can tell, the UI offers a mix of 2D/3D Flash and OpenGL ES graphics.

The system signals a new market direction for Harman, which has traditionally positioned itself as a premium brand. It will be interesting to see how it maintains its luxury-car leadership while targeting a much larger cross section of vehicles and end-customers.


Stop reading this and vote for QNX CAR

Last week, I told you that the QNX CAR application platform has been shortlisted for an Adobe MAX award.

Well, guess what: It's time to do something about it. Here's what I'd like you to do:
  1. Stop reading this blog (temporarily, of course)
  2. Point your browser to http://max.adobe.com/awards/finalists/
  3. Scroll down to the Mobile category and click on Vote when you see this:

If you're still reading this blog (didn't I tell you to stop doing that?), you undoubtedly remain unconvinced. Why, you ask, should you vote for QNX CAR?

Because QNX CAR is doing something that has never been done before: Putting Flash in the driver's seat. In fact, several automakers and automotive suppliers are already using the QNX CAR platform to create Flash-based instrument clusters and infotainment systems.

So what, you say? Well, just think how this will transform the driving experience. Allow me to quote a press release that QNX issued yesterday:

"Imagine a dashboard that reconfigures itself for each driver, or a car infotainment system that tells you where your friends are, or that points you to the nearest gas station when it notices you are running low on fuel — that’s the kind of user experience the QNX CAR application platform is making possible...”

If that's the kind of car you'd like to drive, then, for the last time, stop reading this blog and vote for QNX CAR.


A blog(ger) is born

All I can say, it's about time. I've worked with Andy Gryc for a couple of years now, and I was hoping he'd get off his (admittedly busy) keester and start blogging. Because, frankly, he has interesting things to say. Some of them are even important.

So I am (delighted? happy? pumped? I'm still working on the exact emotion) that Andy has finally launched a blog, entitled True Gryc. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to it.

But don't go just yet. There's another blogger you ought to follow: Andrew Poliak. Honestly, if I knew 10% of what Andrew knows about the in-car telematics and infotainment market, I'd hang up a shingle and promote myself as a big-buck industry analyst.

So take the extra minute and subscribe to Andrew's blog as well -- I'll think you'll enjoy his recent post on how a toilet tanked his patent idea for a twittering car.


QNX to drive first Intel Atom-based car infotainment systems

This morning, at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced that the BMW 7 series and Mercedes S- and C-class cars will be the first to ship with in-car infotainment systems based on Intel Atom processors. And, according to the online magazine apc, the systems will run the QNX Neutrino RTOS.

A few days ago, I mentioned that Mercedes will use a QNX-based infotainment system in their upcoming S- and C-Class models; I believe this is the very same system that Paul Otellini highlighted in this morning's keynote. In that blog post, I mentioned that no photos of the system were yet available; it looks like that is still true. According to apc, this is the only image that has been provided... I believe the blurring is intentional. :-)

BTW, the QNX Neutrino RTOS offers some pretty cool fast booting capabilities on Intel Atom processors -- one reason, no doubt, that QNX was chosen for the Mercedes and BMW systems. Click here for some fast boot videos.

Linux is huge, scary, bloated: Torvalds

You've got to hand it to Linus Torvalds, he's never been afraid to speak his mind. Even when it comes to his own baby.

Speaking yesterday at LinuxCon, he stated that the Linux kernel has become "huge and scary" and that it isn't "the streamlined, hyper-efficient kernel I envisioned when I started writing Linux."

Asked whether a solution was in the works, he commented, "I'd love to say we have a plan."

You gotta admit, the guy is honest.

Predictably, his comments have ignited discussions on several forums, including Slashdot, CNET, and OSNews.


Intel blogger: QNX BMP simplifies migration to multi-core chips

Maury Wright, former editor-in-chief of EDN Magazine, has just posted a blog on the Intel embedded community site that provides an overview of QNX's bound multiprocessing technology — aka BMP.

If you've never heard of BMP, it's a variant of symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) that simplifies the migration of legacy applications to multi-core processors. In a nutshell, it allows legacy apps to run on a multi-core chip as if they were still in a conventional uniprocessor environment. Meanwhile, it allows new, parallelized apps to take full advantage of the chip's multiple processing cores.

In other words, your old stuff can run on a multi-core chip without going haywire or messing up your new stuff. This is good.

Maury provides a nice overview of the technology. You can view his blog here.


Cloud computing: It's a guy thing

I stumbled across the Cloud Computing Journal website and what did I see but the following ads, right next to each other:

Click to enlarge.

Now, either the "Patrick Fitzgerald and Gerald Fitzpatrick Modeling Agency" has got a near-monopoly on the IT advertising market, or the folks who come up with these promos need to mix things up a bit. I mean, do all IT guys come from the same gene pool? Do they all beam the same smile? Do they all have beards? For that matter, are they all guys?


QNX CAR shortlisted for Adobe MAX award

UPDATE: Voting for the Adobe MAX awards is now open. To vote for the QNX CAR application platform, point your browser to http://max.adobe.com/awards/finalists/ and scroll down to the Mobile category.

This just in: The QNX CAR application platform has clinched a finalist spot in the Adobe MAX awards, for its innovative use of Adobe software.

Yeah, I know. That doesn't compute. Adobe software lets you design web pages, generate PDFs, and create fake photos of your Aunt Mabel smoking a pipe — none of which has anything to do with the car. So why the award nomination?

It's about Adobe Flash. You know, that technology for adding bling to websites. Except it's not just about websites. A special version, called Adobe Flash Lite, allows software developers to equip mobile phones, kiosks, and, yes, automobiles with graphical user interfaces (GUIs) created entirely in Flash. In fact, some 800 million devices already have GUIs based on Flash Lite.

Mind you, taking Flash, which cut its teeth on the desktop, and embedding it in a vehicle presents some challenges. That's where QNX CAR comes in. It provides several technologies to make Flash-based GUIs fast enough and bulletproof enough for in-car systems, even virtual instrument clusters. (Imagine having to reboot your speedometer while driving down the highway, and you get why the bulletproof thing is so important.)

Now this is where it gets interesting. QNX technology is already running in more than 10 million in-car systems. Which means its QNX CAR platform provides a unique opportunity for Flash designers to target a whole new market: the automobile. In fact, QNX CAR even allows automakers to create application stores from which car owners can download Flash applications in a, well, flash. Which means even more opportunities for Flash developers down the road.

You can begin to see why Adobe chose QNX CAR. Because it allows Flash to go where it has never gone before. In fact, several automakers and automotive suppliers are already developing next-generation vehicles that will use the Flash-based QNX CAR platform.

Online voting for the Adobe MAX awards starts September 28. I'll link to the voting page as soon as it's up.


iPod nano gets FM radio

I'm going to have to eat my words.

A few weeks ago, I opined that Apple would never market an iPod that supports FM, for the simple reason that users would end up listening to the radio when they could be browsing the iTunes store instead.

Boy, was I wrong. The new iPod nano not only supports FM, but also lets you pause FM broadcasts and pick up where you left off. You can even rewind and fastforward through broadcasts. Think of it as the TiVo for FM radio.

But this is where it gets really interesting: You can also tag songs you hear on the radio for subsequent purchase on the iTunes store. In other words, Apple has just turned FM radio into a huge sales funnel for iTunes. Brilliant.

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The QNX Aviage Multimedia Suite also supports a lot of this functionality, btw.
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I'm ticked that Apple still isn't bringing FM to the iPod touch, especially since my second-gen touch contains a chip that supports FM reception. And you would think that Apple would want iPod touch users to also tag FM songs for subsequent purchase. But on the other hand, I now want a nano as well as a touch. So, marketing-wise, maybe the folks at Apple are one giant step ahead of me.

It wouldn't the first time. Or, no doubt, the last.


Mercedes chooses QNX-based infotainment system for new S-Class and C-Class models

Earlier this morning, Harman International announced that it will provide the next-generation COMAND infotainment system for the new Mercedes-Benz S- and C-Class models.

The system, based on the QNX Neutrino RTOS, offers "3-D navigation, brilliant graphics, Internet access, and wired or wireless connectivity." It also has a hard drive that will provide "rich navigation data and accommodate the user's personal entertainment files for increased flexibility and comfort."

That last part is just a fancy way of saying you can upload your favorite tunes to the hard drive and listen to them while cruisin'. Which is pretty cool. I assume the system will also let you plug in your iPod, create playlists, and generally control what music you want to listen to, and when. Which will be even cooler.

I don't see any photos on the Harman website, but I'll bug their PR folks to see if they have a snap or two. If they give me any, I'll post them here posthaste.

To read the press release, click here.