Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Linux on test systems

So I just downloaded the first in a series of Agilent white papers on using Linux in test systems. The paper has a brief history of Linux, comments on licensing structures, lists available tools, and discusses controlling tools within Linux.

In a clever marketing move, Agilent is releasing these papers episodically. The other papers in the series are:
  • "Using Linux to Control LXI Instruments through VXI-11"
  • "Using Linux to Control LXI Instruments through TCP Communication"
  • "Using Linux to Control USB Instruments"
  • "Using Linux in Soft Real-Time Applications"

Normally I would skip these papers. They tend to be self-serving and talk about things that are pretty obvious. But I would like to hold Agilent to a higher standard (that may be naive of me). Plus, in my test group we've seriously considered using Linux on test systems - so I'm interested in what they have to say.

The paper also lists 4 reasons why you'd use Linux in the test system:
  1. Threat of software obsolescence. What happens if the version of windows you run on your system is obsoleted?
  2. Flexibility/performance. The Linux OS can be customized.
  3. Stability. It's very unlikely to go belly-up on you.
  4. Leveraging know-how and software. There is a lot of UNIX experience out there that can be extended to Linux.
There are also a couple of practical reasons that we've considered at work:
  1. Technicians and operators are less likely to screw around with the computer (browse the net, download games) if it doesn't run Windows.
    • As a corollary, engineers won't try to run other programs, analyze data with Excel, or remote login to their own computers on a Linux test station.
  2. Security is better. Some of our new test systems will likely be hooked into the internet for remote access, and there's just too many viruses out there looking for systems running Windows.
At any rate, I will definitely be reading the other papers in the series. I'll post my comments on them as they come out.

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