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Middleware Matters

We just announced today that our partner, Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC) successfully ported a complete JTRS radio system, including an APCO P25 waveform, to an Android handset.

In one day.

They were able to do this because the Software Communications Architecture (SCA) uses CORBA as the communications framework. We spent the time and effort to port ORBexpress to the Android platform, so all CRC needed to do was get our ORBexpress for Android software to take care of the detailed communications architecture of the application.

This successful port by CRC shows the power of the SCA, and in particular the power of using a communications framework abstraction like ORBexpress. Moving to new devices, new versions of operating systems, new versions of compilers, etc., becomes easy because we do the hard work for you.

This also brings a new level of capability to the public-safety radio market, which is very price sensitive. CRC's work shows that public-safety radio manufacturers can take advantage of all of the benefits and new capabilities offered by software-defined radios, while keeping costs to a minimum by using commercial off-the-shelf hardware.

We'd love to talk to you more about how using ORBexpress can make your radio development faster, easier and cheaper. Ask us!


We just announced today that our partner Communications Research Centre successfully ported an entire software defined radio, including the core framework and full waveform, to an Android handset.

This SDR was based on the JTRS Software Communications Architecture, which uses CORBA as the communications framework. There's been some talk recently that CORBA might not be suitable for smaller form factor radios. That might be true for a lot of enterprise-type ORBs, that are relatively big, slow and cumbersome. ORBexpress, however, was built from the ground up for hard real-time and embedded systems. We always knew that ORBexpress would be ideal for very small form factor radios, but until we could demonstrate it in practice it just was a difference of opinion.

That's why we are so delighted in what CRC has accomplished. They ported a full core framework, a full waveform (with all the modulation and demodulation, etc., running on the Android platform) and the entire radio in just one day. Because OIS had already done all of the hard work in porting ORBexpress to the Android platform, their port of their SDR application went smoothly and without a hitch.

All of this ran smoothly, with long battery life, on a single core ARM processor. That's right - no DSP, no FPGA, just a GPP. This successful test demonstrates the power of the portability of the SCA. By using a standards-based communications framework like ORBexpress, next generation radios can take advantage of new smaller and lightweight form factors without rewriting their software.

This means new features and new form factors will get to the warfighter faster and more reliably. A win by any measure.


We just announced that ORBexpress now supports Wind River's VxWorks 6.9 with full symmetric multiprocessing capability. A lot of our customers are letting us know that they believe their next projects, or the next generation of their existing projects, will use a multicore processor. All you need to do is look at how smartphones are developing. The current trend is to move to dual-core ARM processors, and there are already quad-core ARM processors available.

In order to keep battery usage and heat down, it makes much more sense to add additional cores without dramatically ramping up the GHz of the processor. That way, you get a lot more MIPS (millions of instructions per second) without eating up battery life. This is one of the many benefits of the relentless march of Moore's Law.

ORBexpress was designed, architected and built from the very beginning to optimize processing distributed over multiple processors. Its native multi-threaded architecture is ideal for multicore applications. This means that software developers using multi-threaded ORBexpress in an application running on a single core processor can reap the benefits of moving to a multicore processor without rewriting their application. They literally need to change only one line of code to enable dramatic performance improvements (assuming that the underlying operating system supports multicore).

Feel free to contact us to learn more about the specific performance improvements that your system might realize in using ORBexpress.


We're delighted to announce that the good folks over at PC/104 and Small Form Factors magazine have selected ORBexpress for Android for their Editor's Choice award. With all of the issues developers face in connecting their applications across a range of different devices running different operating systems, processors and communication methods, they singled out ORBexpress for Android for its ability to bridge these gaps easily with a small footprint and lightning fast performance.

It's always nice to be recognized, and we'd like to thank the editors of PC/104 and Small Form Factors magazine for their recognition of our hard work.


Day 3 was the last day of the conference and classes. I attended all of Karim Yaghmour's classes. I believe he was by far the most knowledgeable and articulate person I encountered at the conference WRT to their subject matter. The three classes I attended were:

  • Android for Embedded Linux Developers
  • Understanding the Android System Server; and
  • Porting Android to New Hardware

These classes are an essential preparation for anyone who wants to do a port of Android to new hardware. Karim did an excellent job of discussing the differences of Android Linux from “vanilla” Linux. Prior to his classes, I was unsure just how different Android Linux is from “vanilla” Linux. Android Linux contains power management features, and the GPL and LGPL libraries were replaced with equivalent Apache libraries (for example, libc was replaced with bionic).

Day 3 was also the day that Google gave their keynote address. The Motorola XOOM and Honeycomb once again were the center of attention. The speakers did a good job walking us through the XOOM and Honeycomb but lacked the luster of the Motorola keynote. At the end of the Google keynote, I didn’t feel the desire to run up any hills.

All in all a good experience, the things that could have been better were:

  • The wireless Internet didn’t work for most folks (I didn’t use it so I didn’t suffer).
  • The hotel wireless wasn’t free (when it that ever a good thing?!?!). The last time I paid for Internet was in Europe.
  • The hotel shuttle only ran once an hour and God help you if you missed it because cabs were expensive.
  • There weren’t any Oprah moments. Many folks were hoping for a cool electronic device give-away and there were none.
  • The booths were strangely devoid of Android plush toys or tee shirts. Come on vendors, we have kids at home!!
  • Lunch lines were long on the last two days.

Let me know if you have any questions about the conference!


Day 2 was the official start of the classes. These classes covered just about every conceivable topic that someone in the Android business could ask for. There were classes on the business end for sales and marketing folks, classes for QA folks, classes for newbies, and classes for experienced Android developers. My picks for day one were as follows:

  • Coding for the Motorola XOOM Tablet
  • Android Internals: From SDK to NDK to APIs; and
  • Open Source in Android Apps

The first class on the XOOM was very informative WRT to Honeycomb, which is Android version 3.0, and the actual look and feel of the XOOM. What can I say, the XOOM is cool. Much of the low level graphics programming for the XOOM is done in C and requires knowledge of Java native development. Android provides a NDK (Native Development Kit) separate from the SDK. My main concern with Honeycomb is the divergence from the latest Gingerbread version. The focus of pre-Honeycomb Android versions (Froyo, Gingerbread and the rest) was for both phone and tablet platforms while Honeycomb is only for tablets. There is a plan to merge the two code lines together in the future.

The keynote address by Motorola’s Christy Wyatt was very nice indeed. As a code soldier, my personal criteria to “take the hill” is:

  • The hill in question is the correct hill to storm; and
  • That the cause is just.

I believe Christy Wyatt did both. Motorola’s investment in Android as a corporation and their belief that the phone is a person’s information hub is a strong and vibrant mission statement. People are starting to understand that the phone is no longer a phone, it’s a computer. And Moore’s law being alive and well, the future looks pretty exciting WRT to mobile computing.

The next class, Android Internals by Marko Gargenta, was informative and focused. His example of how to use Android’s AIDL (Android Interface Definition Language) to expedite communication between Activities and Services was very crisp and clear. He also dabbled a bit with the NDK and demonstrated how to use the NDK in an Android app. The class also showed some performance numbers using native and Java code. Again much of the format of the class can be found in Marko’s new book.

The last class I attended that day dealt with licensing issues in using open source code in your applications. In summary, make sure you know the licensing issues of using open source in your application so you don’t have legal problems.

In my next post, I’ll describe the classes on the last day of the conference.


During the week of April 6th to 9th, I had the good pleasure to attend AnDevCon or the Android Developer Conference. I will be sharing my experiences at this event in my next few postings.

This was the first ever AnDevCon so if you missed it, don’t worry; there will be one coming in November. The event was held at the San Mateo Marriott very close to San Francisco airport. The actual event started on the 7th as a whole day workshop where the attendees could choose a subject that was of particular interest to them and intently focus on it. The one I attended was, “Android for Java Developers” and the speaker was Marko Gargenta from Marakana. The workshop covered some of the challenges that Java developers have to overcome to program successfully on the Android platform. In addition, Marko briefly covered the Android stack (kernel, davik, Android System Server, etc.).

The workshop was very informative though much of what was covered was available for folks by coding the tutorials that are in the SDK. Since the discussion was so broad, the scope sometimes went into the weeds but by and large stayed on topic. The attendee’s skill level varied greatly from raw beginners to folks who had published apps. Most of the discussion in the workshop followed Marko’s new book, “Learning Android”; so if you downloaded the book from O’Reily (I did), you could review the topics.

I’ll cover the first full day of classes in my next post.


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