Using Clear Linux OS for Teaching Virtual Platforms

Some months ago, Jakob Engblom, published this fantastic post talking their journey adopting Clear Linux* OS.

“This change showed us just how sophisticated modern Linux setups are – which is good in general, but it also can make some low-level details more complicated.”

A Linux distro reduces the work to set up a Linux to just downloading and running an installer like you would do on your own PC. The version of Clear Linux OS we used put us on the 4.20 kernel, as well as a much more fully-featured and rich file system and system configuration. Using a modern Linux distribution is rather different from the Linux setups we used previously.

Using a modern Linux distro also came with some real conveniences. For example, Clear Linux OS is capable of automatically detecting that it is running behind a network proxy and loading the network proxy setup scripts. This removed a manual step that is otherwise necessary to connect to the outside world from Linux running on top of Simics, inside most enterprise networks.

The command-line environment is rich and full-featured. Adding new software is as simple as using the swupd command to add new bundles. The command-line interface is also full of color. The Linux kernel and standard shells assume you have at least 8-bit color in your terminal, even when connecting over a serial port.


Screenshot of the target console of a Clear Linux OS system showing a lot of different colors

They observed many years ago, when Simics started to mature user questions changed from being about the simulator to being about how to use the software stacks that ran on top. Whenever this happens, it indicates that the virtual platform is solid. Moving to Clear Linux OS was really all about how to configure and use a modern Linux, and very little about Simics. That is how things should be. In the end, the purpose of the virtual platform is to make software development and testing easier, earlier, and better—not just to play with the virtual platform.

More recently, he wrote about the new Simics* 6 major release that includes many changes to the simulation core and simulator APIs, along with new testing and analysis tools built on top of the new APIs. One such tool is for device register coverage, which makes it easy for developers to investigate and quantify how software uses the programming registers of hardware devices.

About the author:

Dr. Jakob EngblomJ (@__jengblom) is a product management engineer for the Simics virtual platform tool, and an Intel® Software Evangelist. He got his first computer in 1983 and has been programming ever since. Professionally, his main focus has been simulation and programming tools for the past two decades. He looks at how simulation in all forms can be used to improve software and system development, from the smallest IoT nodes to the biggest servers, across the hardware-software stack from firmware up to application programs, and across the product life cycle from architecture and pre-silicon to the maintenance of shipping legacy systems. His professional interests include simulation technology, debugging, multicore and parallel systems, cybersecurity, domain-specific modeling, programming tools, computer architecture, and software testing. Jakob has more than 100 published articles and papers, and is a regular speaker at industry and academic conferences. He holds a PhD in Computer Systems from Uppsala University, Sweden.

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