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I know that Linux is a huge part of the embedded systems thing, but what about things like pacemakers and insulin pumps?

Do they run a custom "distro" on the Linux kernel? How complex is the underlying software?

  • Distros are primarily to provide a large variety of application packages for desktop PCs. Embedded systems rarely use a distro, but rather a custom-built kernel and a small set of application programs to fit in non-volatile storage of small size (e.g. NAND flash). The devices you mention require unique additional requirements and testing as they are medical devices that sustain life. – sawdust Jul 7 '14 at 5:16
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Actually, most embedded systems run pre-compiled code. The Linux kernel takes readable commands (such as 'cd ..') and converts them to code to be executed.

  • Interesting, I didn't know this. So, these systems aren't technically a distro as much as they are continually executing code? – user341129 Jul 6 '14 at 20:25
  • In order for a system to add 2 integers from memory together and store the result in a third location, most programming languages would use something similar to c:=a+b. The system would first need to fetch the 2 integers, add them together and then store the result, a minimum of 3 operations (on some systems it is 4 operations). If you want to know more, learn machine code programming (like the PICAXE processors without Basic or C). – LDC3 Jul 6 '14 at 20:51
  • Machine code programming sounds crazy hard and I would not know where to start or what to do with it. Would learning some x86 ASM help to understand these? Right know I'm learning C and have considered x86 – user341129 Jul 6 '14 at 20:59
  • x86 ASM is machine language coding. PICAXE is a smaller processor than the current x86 processors and uses a different set of machine codes. – LDC3 Jul 6 '14 at 21:26
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    @user341129 - "they are continually executing code" -- A processor, unless it's powered off or sleeping, is always executing machine code (even when it's "idle"). Assembly code is not machine code. "embedded systems run pre-compiled code" -- High-level languages have to be compiled into machine code for execution unless you have a rare HLL computer. – sawdust Jul 7 '14 at 5:26

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