As my colleague Víctor at Igalia has said before in his post, Aura was released to the Nokia Store. Miguel, Víctor and I are quite happy with the result achieved with this app, which intention was to be kind of a port of the Cheese application of the GNOME platform to be used in the N9 or N950 Nokia phones.

The apps allows you to use both cameras (front and principal) to record videos, applying a lot of funny effects (a subset of the GNOME Video Effects) and changing them during the recording. Being Nokia a Finnish company, we decided to name the app after a Finnish Cheese to both honor the GNOME Cheese application and Finland 😉

You can download the app from the Nokia Store where we already got more than 6000 downloads and 100 reviews with a quite good average rating.

You have an example recorded by me with my own phone using the Historical effect and uploaded to Youtube:

And you have even already other videos uploaded to Youtube talking about how Aura works. This one is from a brazilian guy (obrigado!) for FaixaMobi and shows more effects:

Of course, being it free sofware you can also compile it yourself with the code at GitHub and do not be afraid of contributing! The technologies we used were the camerabin element of GStreamer and Qt/QML for the interface where we have the following components:

Aura components UML diagram

  • Main view (aura.qml) with the main interface
  • Controller, which is a mixed QML/C++ object allowing to control the pipeline.
  • Pipeline is a C++ object used by the controller to encapsulate the GStreamer code.
  • PostCapture is also a mixed QML/C++ object that opens the gallery application to show the recorded video and gives you the oportunity of sharing it, deleting it and so on. It uses a C++ controller loaded as a singleton to the context to do some stuff that can only be done in C++. Of course, you can open Gallery yourself and the videos will show up there.
  • EffectManager is a C++ class to load and manage the Effects, which is another C++ class defining how the effect must be applied.
  • Effects (Effects.qml) is a QML component to show the different effects, both software and hardware that Aura can apply. It uses the EffectManager (through the context) to load them and the Controller to apply them.
  • About view (AboutView.qml) is a rework of something done by my colleage Simón Pena and adapted to be used in Aura (Kudos!). It also uses a small AboutViewController to open a Nokia Store URL with the application instead of the browser.
  • ResourceManager is a C++ class used by the Controller to request the proper permissions to record the video.

Attended FOSDEM 2012


This was my first time at FOSDEM (thanks to Igalia for the sponsoring) and I was really impressed by the lots of tracks that you can find there, but as there are so many, you realize that there are many you are not interested at. The feeling is only a bit more intense than at GUADEC or Desktop Summit, because for your interestest, you target more or less the same kind of talks, but in this case, offer is a bit broader.

My thoughts:

  • WebKit and WebKitGtk are in a good shape.
  • We are going to more web based desktops.
  • Tizen is taking off and it is betting for HTML5 and ELF, which looks like a toolkit with very interesting features like Edje being able to write an app with different views for different platforms in an easy way (at least in the paper, because I couldn’t try it).
  • GStreamer is in the right way to 1.0 by improving APIs and features that can boost performance in embedded.
  • I would like to have gone to Wayland talks, but I could not.
  • CERN really rocks working with FLOSS, specially on drivers and even developing their own hardware for their needs. It seems they have the policy of writing and using FLOSS because of being a publicly funded organization. Many other could follow their advice.

About tourist stuff, it was really a pity to be taking some medicins that prevented me to drink the famous Belgian beer, but at least I could visit some famous stuff in Brussels, like the Atomium, Manneken Pis and the Grote Markt. What medicins did allow me was trying the famous waffles and some good chocolate made by Frederic Blondeel.

Fanciful memory management

/* gcc -Wall -Werror -o references `pkg-config --cflags --libs
   gstreamer-0.10` references.c */

#include <gst/gst.h>
#include <glib-object.h>

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
  GstElement *old_object, *object;

  gst_init(&argc, &argv);

  object = gst_element_factory_make("playbin2", "playbin");
  old_object = object;
  object = gst_element_factory_make("playbin2", "playbin");

  g_print("old_object: %pn", old_object);
  g_print("object: %pn", object);
  if (old_object == object) {
    g_print("pointers are the same!n");

  return 0;

In this code, as you can see we alloc an object, keep the pointer in another variable, release it and then alloc it again. Then we print those pointers and the surprise sentence if they are the same. Let’s see what I got from running this program:

$ ./references
old_object: 0x63f6e0
object: 0x63f6e0
pointers are the same!

Then I decided to disable G_SLICE and I got:

$ G_SLICE=always-malloc,debug-blocks ./references
old_object: 0x81dfa0
object: 0x81df60

There were even some occasions where I had the opposite in both cases, though I guess it is easier that this happens with G_SLICE as it is designed to optimize memory management and this would be like an easy case. In other cases, I guess having the same pointer happens because of the kernel.

The thing is that if you are debugging object references, you need to pay attention to pointer itself as sometimes you can get to wrong conclusions.

Example 1: let’s say that you get something meaningful as reference count for the old object. It could be that there is some missing reference elsewhere, though if the pointer is the same as the new one, it has been released (unless somebody replaced your old pointer) and reasigned again for the new object.

Example 2: let’s say that you get garbage, then your object is released and the memory has been overwritten (or you would have a bigger problem). You could easily get a segfault if the memory has been claimed by the kernel.

Example 3: let’s say that you get 0, then it has been released and maybe not rewritten, though maybe somewhere else somebody wrote a 0 there. It could be claimed by the kernel (or GSlice) or not, but if it has been, you can easily get a segfault.

Being taken to Azkaban for use of very dark GStreamer magic

I was writing some tests for a project at Igalia and I need to mock the convert-frame playbin2 element action. The code to invoke it is something like this:

GstElement *pipeline = /* get pipeline */;
GstCaps *caps = /* create caps to adapt the conversion */;
GstBuffer *buffer = NULL;
g_signal_emit_by_name (pipeline, "convert-frame", caps, &buffer);

When you are writing tests, what you want to do is testing just your code and not to depend on something external, so in this case the idea would be providing a fake implementation for that GStreamer element action.

The way you can do this kind of things is providing the symbol in your code so that the linker when doing its job does not look any further and uses that instead of the one in the external library, so the natural solution coming to your mind would be rewriting g_signal_emit_by_name. The problem with this is that though you are not using it in your code, it is too general, so it is not a good idea.

I thought I could replace the convert-frame action in the playbin2 class, so I wrote this code:

typedef struct
  GstPipelineClass parent_class;
  void (*about_to_finish) (gpointer playbin);
  void (*video_changed) (gpointer playbin);
  void (*audio_changed) (gpointer playbin);
  void (*text_changed) (gpointer playbin);
  void (*video_tags_changed) (gpointer playbin, gint stream);
  void (*audio_tags_changed) (gpointer playbin, gint stream);
  void (*text_tags_changed) (gpointer playbin, gint stream);
  GstTagList *(*get_video_tags) (gpointer playbin, gint stream);
  GstTagList *(*get_audio_tags) (gpointer playbin, gint stream);
  GstTagList *(*get_text_tags) (gpointer playbin, gint stream);
  GstBuffer *(*convert_frame) (gpointer playbin, GstCaps * caps);
  GstPad *(*get_video_pad) (gpointer playbin, gint stream);
  GstPad *(*get_audio_pad) (gpointer playbin, gint stream);
  GstPad *(*get_text_pad) (gpointer playbin, gint stream);
} GstPlayBinClass;

static gpointer
gst_play_bin_convert_frame (G_GNUC_UNUSED gpointer playbin,
                            G_GNUC_UNUSED gpointer caps)
    GstBuffer *buffer;

    /* Create my own GstBuffer with the data I need */

    return buffer;

simulator_gst_reset(GstElement *new_pipeline, GstBus *new_bus)
    /* ... */

    GstPlayBinClass *klass =
    klass->convert_frame = (gpointer) gst_play_bin_convert_frame;

    /* ... */

First I declared the GstPlayBinClass copying it from the GStreamer code. I didn’t change any parameters order, just replaced some pointers with gpointer as we don’t need them. This way you don’t break the ABI. Then you can declare your own element action code and finally you get the Class, assign the method and voilà!.

As I said, the solution is far from being the best, but if you know a better way, drop me a comment.

Moving to the next page in MafwGriloSource

Thank Aldon Hynes, who sent me an email with some comments about MafwGriloSource behavior in the N900, I could fix a bug and implement a feature. The bug was a limitation when browsing, as you could only see the first 64 results. It was caused by a problem with indexes when returning the results, as I alwayes sent 0. When fixing this, the interface was requesting more and adding them to the treeview. Then we had all results in the treeview.

Then the problem I saw was that loading so many items in treeview was not slow, but a never ending story, as it took a long time to stop because we were asking for more pages until we reached the end, which took a long time.

I thought of a way of providing my own pagination and the first step was reverting the fix for the index bug to avoid the interface requesting more pages itself, which is a bit hacky, but it was the only way when the interface is not open. The next step was implementing a way of showing a new container row with a “More results…” label to be able to transparently carry on browsing.

Other dirty thing is that I need to override the count and skip parameters because now we have to pay attention to the pagination info and having only 64 results would be a pain in the ass. Do you imaging browsing the thousands and thousands of Jamendo artists in chunks of 64? I thought that 1024 was a much more reasonable number. Anyway a g_message is printed when the given count is overridden.

I talked to Juan about the possibility of implementing that in Grilo itself as it could be a nice of way of providing automatic pagination, but we agreed that it was better to implement the prototype at MafwGriloSource and then, if it was good enough and the model was suitable for Grilo, we could move it there.

How could I implement this? The easiest way was changing the way the MAFW object ids are build from the GrlMedia object. What we had so far, was source_uuid::media_object_id. First I thought of having a special uuid indicating that there was pagination but this would not work as MAFW really needs to parse a valid source uuid (this is, corresponding to an existing source), to send the requests to the appropriate one, so I had to discard this option.

Then, if I could not touch the source uuid, the next and only choice was the media object id. As the MAFW media object id is created directly from the GrlMedia id, it is an opaque string for us, so the best solution was adding the pagination information (the next element index in the list to request) and then catenating the media object id with a semicolon as separation. Result: source_uuid::next_element_index:current_container_media_object_id. For this, I needed to change the functions to serialize and deserialize the object id.

Once I had the pagination info, the only thing left should be changing the callback to return the data to check if there were results left and adding the row that you will see if you, for example, browse Jamendo artists.

Here you have the result:

Screenshot showing pagination

If you find anything weird, drop me a line.

I have to thank Igalia for letting use work time to finish this.