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Huge structures

Today I was finally able to talk with Vir (Matthias Kretz, the Phonon guy), and I got a partially good news, but also a pretty bad news.

The good thing is that there will be a notification daemon in KDE4, that will use Phonon, so that not every application that requires notification will have to load libxine (and all its damned plugins); it might be loaded on the fly on a file dialog to preview a multimedia file though, which means it’s still going to be used by more than just a couple of applications at a time.

So the result is that we are in the need to branch xine-lib to make more consistent changes to the codebase for a 1.2 series, like for instance a shared cache for the plugins, created – if at all possible – during make install phase, as well as configuration options caching. It’s a massive amount of work that has to go in that direction, so we can make more data in the plugins constant, reducing the chances of having to make the RSS pages dirty, so reducing the overall size of xine-lib’s memory occupation.

Other changes includes the ability to choose the demuxer through a shared mime type, rather than by extension, which would allow not to have to load all the demuxers one by one when we’re passing through them, and a way for the plugin to tell the library if it supports ways to check what it can demux other than by content (some plugins fall back to a by-content detection when they don’t support an extension decoding); plus there is the always-improvable support for seeking, right now there is only one choice: an input plugin can seek or cannot, simple as that, while there can be difference grades of seeking: no seeking at all (sequential), slow seeking (you can seek, but you shouldn’t just jump around to find what the format is, an example of this is HTTP streaming), usual seeking (which is what most plugins already implement), and time seeking (MMS and RTSP support this).

RTSP support is also quite lacking, and it could certainly get improved by using libnemesi (Luca knows I tried already but as it is the structure of xine is not good enough); and another external library we might as well use is libavformat from FFmpeg: right now we only support libavcodec and, to some extents, libpostproc from FFmpeg project, while we could easily make use of libavformat as an extra demuxer plugin, as that can certainly support a lot of formats without us needing to take care of them one by one.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be able to provide much of this with a 1.2 series right away, especially since we don’t have many developers around at the moment, but that can be hoped.

Now, to return on the title of my blog, I’ve decided to play a bit with pahole, a nice software coming from Arnaldo Carvalho de Melo, a kernel developer, that is able to analyse the dwarf data of binaries (them being final executeables, libraries or kernels) to identify the structures used internally, and their content, to find their size and the eventual padding holes that would allow to reduce their size.

Well, a simple run of it, shown that there is at least one structure video_overlay_object_t (which is also used in video_ovelray_event_t) that takes more than 80KB of space. I’m not sure how many of these structures are loaded, but even a single one is a lot of space used, and I’m quite sure most of it is wasted; as far as I can see, it is used for the overlaid buttons in DVD menus (and other kind of menus I suppose, although I don’t think we currently support Matroska’s menus, although I’m not sure of it); even if that is the case, I don’t really see often DVD menus with 32 buttons, and as every button take more than 2KB, it should have probably be improved by using a button list rather than a static array, allocating the buttons only when effectively needed.

As I said there is a lot of work to do, especially when it comes to memory, but hopefully as soon as we have a new DVCS the work might become easier. Of course switching to a distributed mode will require some adjustment time, as we all need to learn Mercurial (well beside Darren that is), and there will be a lot to do to let others involved, but for instance then the VDR patches from Reinhard Nissl would just become a different branch of xine-lib, that could easily be merged from time to time (today I merged two more patches from him, and I’m sure more will come in the future).

I suppose right now the main question is: where will we host the sources? I suppose the best thing would be some hosting provider on this side of the Atlantic to avoid USA patents, but it’s still something we haven’t taken a sure decision, one idea was to ask on Alioth but it’s all up to be seen.

If the switch goes well, I could also see us moving away from’s tracker system, that is pretty much unusable, but there isn’t much choice about it, I don’t intend using Mantis again in my life (I used it for NoX-Wizard, do you remember Fabrizio?); Scarab looks interesting, but I’m not sure where we could find an hosting provider with JSP support for no price (or a cheap one).

Oh well, time to go to sleep soon now. If you’re interested in pahole, you can find an ebuild for it in my overlay (I know, gitarella is having trouble, I’m afraid that the Ruby update screwed up both gitarella and ServoFlame, so my services are down until I find time (and will) to fix them.)

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