posted by James Ingraham on Mon 24th Jul 2006 11:15 UTC

"QNX, 3/3"
Documentation and Support

If you are used to Linux, the documentation for QNX is absolutely delightful. Extensive, well-written, and virtually error-free, the docs (available as HTML or PDF) cover everything from basic systems administration and using Photon to the deep inner-workings of the OS and how to develop applications from top to bottom. However, there are virtually no independent books on QNX. The two most famous, both by Robert Krten, are quite good. There are also a handful of on-line communities for QNX. However, if you find yourself stuck, the massive on- and off- line community surrounding Windows and Linux is not there for QNX.

QSS does offer web, e-mail, and phone based support, at varying levels of service and price. The people that answer the phone are not call center plebeians reading from a script. They work with QNX daily and can answer many questions off-hand. They also have access to the QNX developers, so that even very sophisticated questions can be answered. Sending code snippets back and forth is common. Granted, this support is not cheap, but it is good. For home projects, it's not worth it. For mission critical commercial applications, it's nice to know that solid people are there to help.

Getting QNX

RTOS vendors generally do not have an "Add to Cart" button on their web pages. It can take weeks to get a quote from a vendor, with lots of back-and-forth with a sales rep about specific requirements and features. I am not at liberty to divulge specific pricing for various RTOS development licenses, but you should expect a number in the tens of thousands of US dollars. QNX Momentics is among the least expensive for initial setup, and can come in under ten thousand depending on requirements. The trade-off is that there is also a runtime royalty, which can tip the balance depending on volume. The cost runtime licenses for QNX can vary greatly, especially since price will go down as volume goes up. The industry as a whole ranges from royalty-free to hundreds of dollars per unit.

QNX does offer a 30-day trial of Momentics, which is enough time to check it out as a desktop OS. It would be difficult to learn enough to develop a non-trivial real-time application in 30 days. At one time QSS offered a version that was free for non-commercial use; this has since been withdrawn.

There is a famous demonstration of QNX 4.x booting the OS and Photon microGUI from a single floppy disk, then launching a browser and using an Ethernet or SLIP connection to access the Internet. This is not possible with the QNX Neutrino RTOS. The demo used older versions of the OS, the GUI, and the Voyager browser. This is worth mentioning only because people still talk about how impressive this demo was whenever QNX is mentioned, but it is no longer available, nor is it particularly related to the modern QNX RTOS.

Conclusions

While you can probably find solutions for just about all of your desktop computing needs using the QNX RTOS, that is not QNX's strong suit. Its focus is real-time, embedded, and mission critical applications. In these realms, QNX has numerous features that stand out. Recently, the in-car telematics market has been a primary driver, leading to QSS's acquisition by Harman, of Harman-Kardon audio fame. It may not have the market share of VxWorks, but QNX manages to maintain a niche for itself with continually innovative features and a broad array of options.

About the author:
James Ingraham is the Software Development Team Leader for gantry robot manufacturer Sage Automation, Inc., and has been a QNX user for the last decade or so.


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Table of contents
  1. "QNX, 1/3"
  2. "QNX, 2/3"
  3. "QNX, 3/3"
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