GSoC: Buildroot gaining improved ARM multimedia support

Google Summer of Code 2013 logo

The Buildroot project is participating for the first time to the famous Google Summer of Code. This program, operated by Google, allows open-source projects to have students working on specific tasks for the summer, and the students get paid for their work, get mentored by open-source developers, learn about software development, open-source communities and more.

For its first participation to the GSoC, the Buildroot community has chosen one project: improving support for multimedia features of popular ARM SoCs. This consists in packaging in Buildroot all the necessary libraries and software components to support OpenGL, OpenVG, EGL, OpenMAX and similar technologies for the major ARM processors. The selected student for this project is Spenser Gilliland and Free Electrons engineer Thomas Petazzoni is mentoring Spenser for this project.

The focus of the project is to add support for the multimedia features of the OMAP3, OMAP4 and AM33xx processors from Texas Instruments, the Broadcom processor found on the RasberryPi, the i.MX6 processor from Freescale, the Exynos 4 from Samsung and the Allwinner A1x processors. Throughout the next three months, support for the multimedia capabilities of those processors in Buildroot should become easier to use.

Spenser has already contributed support for GStreamer 1.x in Buildroot (which required upgrading the entire GLib/Gtk/Webkit stack) and OpenMAX support for the RasberryPi, and he is currently working on OpenGL support for the OMAP3/OMAP4/AM33xx platforms. The initial part of Spenser’s work will be in the next 2013.08 Buildroot release, while the remainder will have to wait the 2013.11 release.

For more details about the project, see its description on the wiki, and you can also keep track of Spenser’s progress.

Qt goes LGPL

The next release of Qt will be released under the LGPL license

Good news for people developing graphical applications for embedded Linux systems. Nokia, the new owners of Trolltech, announced they will release the next version of the Qt graphical library under the LGPL license. This means that developers will be able to create applications based on the Qt library, with the license of their choice, free software / open source or proprietary.

As we explained in our Choosing graphical libraries for embedded systems presentation, Qt is more than a graphical library. It also offers a complete development framework, with development tools, data structures, threads, networking, XML parsing utilities making application development easier. All these features, and the fact that Qt directly run on top of the Linux framebuffer, also make it possible to create systems with a feature-rich interface without having to drag and build numerous dependencies.

Another bonus is that Qt supports multiple operating systems, making your applications easily portable. If you’ re not allowed to use Linux yet, write your applications with Qt, and once all OS related dependencies are removed, switch to your favorite OS without even letting your boss know wink.

See WikiPedia for details about Qt.

Choosing graphical libraries for embedded systems

The free software community offers many solutions to embedded system developers willing to add graphical applications to their project. This variety of choice, typical from the free software world, has the advantage of giving several solutions, which increases the chance of finding the solution that bests suits your need, but at the same time, might confuse to choose the right one.

I made experiments with the major graphical libraries available, and reported these experiments during the Embedded Linux Conference Europe event, which took place early November 2008 in Ede, The Nederland. My presentation « Choosing graphical libraries for embedded systems » discussed DirectFB, and its Kdrive variant, SDL, Nano-X, Gtk, Qt, FLTK and WxEmbedded, detailing the features, specifities, size of each solution and suitability to various use cases.

The slides are available under the Creative Commons BY-SA license : graphical-libraries.pdf (PDF), graphical-libraries.odp (Open Document Format).

While experimenting with these graphical libraries, I made a few contributions to the Buildroot project, which was used to build root filesystems including these libraries. I hope to release soon several root filesystems allowing an easy testing of these solutions, through Qemu.