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GStreamer 0.10

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 9:11 pm

2006-5-10
9:11 pm

It’s been out for almost half a year now. In that time we’ve done quite a few releases of all the modules, and things are improving at an incredible rate. It seems we’re collecting more and more momentum along the way, and we’re getting good feedback. We get a lot of bug reports, a fair fraction of which come with patches, which is excellent. And the GStreamer team is fixing those bugs at a good rate too, so our bug total is not growing out of control.

I’ve been told Bastien removed the 0.8 backend from totem today, which is excellent news. When you compare the 0.8 and 0.10 versions, the difference in stability and seeking is so big that you’d never want to use the 0.8 version again. The only big thing it’s still lacking is DVD support. And all that really needs is a motivated hacker. Given how Seamless, a command-line DVD player with full support for menus and subtitles, works amazingly well with 0.10, there’s no real technical obstacle to finish porting the last DVD elements to 0.10 and use them from Totem.
Development of Pitivi is more focused now, and it seems to be paying off, as it’s now getting more usable on my system. Jono Bacon is working on Jokosher, the multi-track audio recorder. It’s good to see new outside people coming in and reporting bugs.
Jono mentions in his post that he thinks he’s finding bugs because this is the first time people are writing applications for non-playback cases. This is only partly true – adder has been around since 0.4, and for the use cases people used it, it has worked fine up until 0.10. With some of the core redesign, it broke for its primary use case – adding audio tracks on the fly to be mixed. Bad, surely – but probably a side effect of 0.10’s focus on achieving perfect playback. Personally, I was so busy with other stuff (Flumotion among other things) that I never got back to porting the jukebox python example to 0.10, and never noticed adder had gone south this badly. In any case, people had been using adder without problems before 0.10, although Stefan was running into problems during 0.8 for his particular use case.
By now, Wim fixed adder, and it seems to be working well, so I should finish that port of the jukebox.

This week is the first time I’m writing some actual C elements for GStreamer 0.10 myself – it’s been a while since I’ve last written one. I’m writing a payloader/depayloader for our Data Protocol, which is used in the TCP elements to be able to connect pipelines over the network. It can still be confusing to write elements, but it’s great to be able to go through all the documentation and compare with the elements you know you can trust for correct implementations in core and base.

It’s also a lot more fun to develop these driven by tests I write – writing the out-of-the-box behaviour I want first, and then implementing things in the element to make the tests pass. I’ve written most of the elements over the last few days while on holiday in Belgium, with lots of interruptions, and mostly when being on the train or a plane, so I forced myself to write the code bookend-style (meaning, writing the code from the outside in – writing start and end of a function, making sure I mirror allocations and deallocations correctly and things like that), putting in appropriate FIXME’s every time I needed to hibernate so I could dump state for later.

While writing these elements I of course ran into some corner bugs again in GStreamer, or just some things that nobody is using because they obviously do not work :) But it’s getting easier and easier to slice through the multi-level GStreamer cake.

At the moment I’m working on a bug I’m triggering in multifdsink for which I need to change the way it handles streamheaders. But I’m being a good boy, and first creating a unit test for multifdsink to codify the things it already does correct for streamheaders today, before changing it to take my case into account.

The fun thing about writing tests is that you always start with the easiest possible test case, and always think “writing this test is stupid, because there’s no way this can go wrong, but let’s flex our mental muscles first“, and invariably something does actually go wrong somewhere. In this particular case, the simplest thing I did was creating the element, setting it to PLAYING, pushing a single buffer, then going back to NULL. The element was leaking the buffer passed in.

The good thing is that most problems we find are problems like these – small leaks that happen outside of the steady state and are easy to fix once identified. In that I think our unit tests and their valgrinding are helping immensely. Instead of acting on the belief that you’re working on a decent project, you can have some practical verification that your project is improving steadily.

So all in all, I’m very happy with the direction GStreamer has taken for 0.10, and the way it has started oozing quality. We still have some ways to go, but there is a very solid foundation on which we’re building now. Thanks to all the GStreamer hackers over the last six-seven years !

Fun

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 6:01 pm

2006-5-8
6:01 pm

Maybe it’s the fever messing my brain, but today I found humour in strange places.
From freshmeat: Snd is a sound editor modelled loosely after Emacs.

Compiler reaches self-awareness and suggests improvements that are actually being made by others in the GStreamer codebase:
error: too few arguments to function ‘gst_event_new_new_segment’

I hope someone wakes me up when we reach twenty arguments to that function.

On an unrelated note, I bought Wired for the first time in my life. A bit fluffy, but it had a feature on the filming of A Scanner Darkly. Apparently it’s ready to hit theaters this summer. Doesn’t this trailer look totally *awesome* ?

Spring clean-up

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 4:00 pm

2006-5-2
4:00 pm

Well, if it helps you decide on your wardrobe,
I’ll be wearing an “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt.

As usual, as time goes by and spring blossoms disks fill up to their maximum capacity everywhere. This past month it happened both at work and at home. This is more annoying at home since I have less time to react to it when it happens, and it messes up Kristien’s ability to do recordings when it happens on the home partition of that machine.

So I decided to make a quick inventory of what I had lying around and I was shocked. Apparently, on the three machines I have running at home, I now have over a Terabyte of online storage. Wow. I still remember when we started getting Gigabyte hard drives, and how we used to marvel at news stories of Terabyte machines.

Half of this Terabyte is mirrored with software RAID as well, so underneath it’s actually 1.5 Terabyte of raw storage space.
My largest drive is 400 GB, which is in my media PC in the living room, and that one was only half-used, so I could move some extra content from various /home partitions to that drive, freeing up the space necessary for more mirroring of Fedora Core stuff, and backups.

Beside that, I also seem to have collecfed 11 non-connected drives around the place. Some of them are quite useless these days – I have perfectly fine 6 and 20 GB drives for example -, one is the drive I dropped, some contain actual files, or backups, or old live systems but with a few bad blocks, and so on.

So I’m going through them now, using e2fsck to check and mark for bad blocks, so I can use some of them as emergency backups for content I already have mirrored somewhere else. I’m guessing that’s pretty much the only thing slightly-broken hard drives can be good for.

Tip of the day

If you have large drives these days, remember ext2/3 reserves 5% of those drives for the root user. If you have a 200 GB drive just for, say, mirroring install trees, you’re wasting 10 GB of space that never gets used. Use

tune2fs -m 1 (partition node)

to reclaim most of that space. I ended up recovering a good 100 GB all over this way, which is half a normal drive these days :) And at work, the same thing gave me a stay of execution for now.

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