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Linux gains lightweight media-oriented graphics stack

Apr 28, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 28 views

An open source multimedia graphics framework for embedded applications has emerged, along with a Linux-based media center middleware stack. The “Disko” framework and “MorphineTV” stack can be used to build graphical user interfaces for digital video broadcast receivers and IPTV set-top boxes, according to… project leaders.

(Click for larger view of Disko and MorphineTV running on TI DaVinci based development hardware)

Both MorphineTV and Disko appear to have grown out of the DirectFB project, which maintains the widely used minimalist graphics layer of the same name. Commonplace in Linux devices such as mobile phones, DirectFB provides a much smaller alternative to the X Window system, while still supporting graphics acceleration, translucent windows, layered displays, and input device abstraction.

DirectFB spokesperson Martin Springer explains how Disko and MorphineTV came about. “[We were] assigned with the implementation of a media center for a Linux appliance. We analyzed several exisiting application frameworks (e.g. Qt, GTK). None of them really performed well on the embedded chipset of our target platform. Therefore we decided to design an application framework from scratch, resulting in Disko — the embedded application framework.”

The stack is less featureful than Qt and other frameworks, Springer admits. However, he adds, “It should be sufficient to fulfill the GUI requirements of current DVB and IPTV set-top boxes.”

Disko diagrams
(Click any to enlarge)

On DirectFB's website, Disko is described as a “plugin-based framework providing components to create media oriented applications with special user interfaces on embedded platforms.” The software is said to connect closely to the DirectFB hardware abstraction layer, and to include a plugin-based management component.

Currently, Disko runs on TI DaVinci processors, and x86. However, the goal is to get it working “on every single platform DirectFB is working on,” according to the DirectFB website.

The Disko framework has so far been used in a “Morphine TV” middleware stack that can be freely downloaded. The screenshots below show various Disko-based Morphine TV plugins.

Morphine TV plugins: (l-r) DVD, EPG, TV, Music, and Weather
(Click any image to enlarge)

Additionally, a video download available on the DirectFB website shows what appears to be a fairly snappy interface with some Macintosh-like design elements.

Disko and MPEG2 on TI DaVinci processor
(Click to play)

The Disko framework and MorphineTV media center software were presented recently at the Embedded Linux Conference sponsored by CELF (Consumer Electronics Linux Forum). Developers Guido Madaus and Matthias Hardt graciously agreed to share their presentation with LinuxDevices readers. Click below to download it.

Disko: an application framework for digital media devices

More details about Disko may be available on the DirectFB website, here. More about the Morphine TV middleware stack may be available here. A tutorial about creating Disko plugins may be found here.

Other lightweight embedded graphics stacks include Fluffy Spider Fancy Pants, Xynth, MiniGUI, PEG Pro, Tech Soft HOOPS, WxWidgets, GNOME/GTK, and the recently renamed Qt for Embedded Linux.

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