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Ideas for the GSoC 2013 on Buildroot

Since 2013 is the first participation of the Buildroot project to the Google Summer of Code program, we are intentionally proposing only one project idea, visible below.

Improve support of ARM SoC multimedia features

Buildroot as an embedded Linux build system, has had support for the ARM architecture pretty much since its creation, and Buildroot is used by a number of companies and hobbyists to build embedded Linux systems that run on ARM platforms.

A number of the modern ARM processors (so called SoC, for System-on-chip) have advanced multimedia features, like OpenGL acceleration, OpenVG acceleration, accelerated video encoding or decoding features (either through dedicated hardware units or DSPs). For example, the OMAP processors from Texas Instruments (used on the BeagleBoard, PandaBoard and BeagleBone), the i.MX processor from Freescale, the BCM2835 from Broadcom (used on Rasberry Pi) all offer such multimedia features. Using those multimedia features require specific libraries provided by the different processor vendors, and Buildroot is currently lacking packages to integrate those specific libraries. They are usually not trivial to integrate, because the libraries provided by the processor vendors often use uncommon build systems, have bizarre dependencies and so on. However, getting the support for those libraries in Buildroot is very important so that Buildroot users can fully benefit from the multimedia features of their hardware.

This project idea is not about doing reverse engineering of multimedia hardware and implementing drivers. It is about creating Buildroot packages for the various multimedia libraries that are needed for the most common ARM processors. We are primarily interested in packaging the official multimedia support provided by the ARM processor vendor (generally in the form of binary-only libraries), but it may also be interesting to package the open-source drivers available (generally implemented by reverse engineering) if any. Our goal is to make it easy for Buildroot users to enable the multimedia features of their hardware. Adding support for multimedia features such as OpenGL or hardware-accelerated video decoding will also involve testing with higher-level libraries such as Qt or GStreamer.

The Buildroot project will use the $500 provided by Google to the mentoring organization to provide 2 or 3 hardware development boards to the student. The GSoC will then be approximately be split in the following steps, for each platform:

  • Get used to the platform (get a working kernel and minimal userspace)
  • Investigate the libraries provided by the processor vendor to use the multimedia features, and make experiments to get them working
  • Create proper Buildroot packages to allow other users to easily integrate those libraries in their embedded Linux systems.
  • Get some packages accepted upstream in the official Buildroot Git repository, by going through the traditional patch submission/review process.

Skills suggested/required:

  • Basic Embedded Linux knowledge (basics of cross-compilation, building/configuring a kernel, etc.)
  • Basic understanding of multimedia features (OpenGL, OpenVG, video acceleration)
  • A minimal knowledge of Buildroot is a plus.

Interested in participating? Please contact:

  • Thomas Petazzoni,, or kos_tom on #buildroot on Freenode.

Interesting platforms to support

  • OMAP3, with a BeagleBoard or BeagleBoard XM. Thomas Petazzoni can lend a BeagleBoard if needed, for the duration of the project.
  • OMAP4, with a PandaBoard. How to get the hardware?
  • i.MX27/28/53/6x. Armadeus Systems may be available to provide some hardware platforms.
  • Allwinner A10/A13. Probably with a Olinuxino platform. Either could ask Olimex if they can provide hardware, or Thomas could buy the hardware for the student.
  • To be extended.

Other potential ideas for the future

The following ideas are not available for applying to the Google Summer of Code 2013. As explained above, we wanted to restrict ourself to only one project for this first participation of the Buildroot project to the Google Summer of Code program. We may be proposing more projects next year.

Improve Blackfin support

Blackfin is a DSP architecture designed by Analog Devices, and the most powerful Blackfin DSP are capable of running Linux. In the past, Analog Devices was using the uClinux-dist build system, but has now switched to using Buildroot as their official build system, which is a really good thing. Unfortunately, they have done this as a fork of the official Buildroot rather than contributing their changes back to the original project.

While the official Buildroot project has minimal support for Blackfin, the idea of this GSoC is to reintegrate back into the official Buildroot many of the improvements made by Analog Devices. This involves improvements in Buildroot packages (to support their use in non-MMU environments, since the Blackfin DSPs don't have MMUs), but also some more core changes in Buildroot.

The Buildroot fork from Analog Devices is visible at [1].

The $500 provided by Google to the mentoring organization will be used to provide the student with a Blackfin hardware development board.

Skills suggested/required:

  • Basic Embedded Linux knowledge (basics of cross-compilation, building/configuring a kernel, etc.)
  • A minimal knowledge of Buildroot is a plus.

Improve testing infrastructure

The Buildroot project uses automated build testing of random configurations to help validate that the millions of possible Buildroot configurations build correctly. This automated build testing has been running since about a year (results visibles at [2]) and have helped improved the quality of Buildroot. However, the project would like to bring a number of improvements to this testing infrastructure:

  • In addition to the existing testing of random configurations, do regression testing on a set of well-defined configurations. This would involve defining the configurations to be tested, design, implement and deploy the infrastructure to test those configurations. This infrastructure will have to be flexible enough to easily allow the addition of new configurations to be tested, so that the Buildroot community can progressively enrich the number of test cases.
  • Add runtime testing. For now, the automated testing is limited to checking that a given Buildroot configuration builds. We would like to add runtime testing, i.e really boot the generated system under Qemu, and verify, for the different packages that are part of the system, that they at least minimally work. For example, if the Python interpreter has been selected to be part of the system, verify that we can run it, and run a simple Python test application on the target. This involves creating an infrastructure to start Qemu, run tests inside Qemu, and integrate the tests in the Buildroot packages themselves.

Skills suggested/requires:

  • Basic Embedded Linux knowledge (cross-compilation, kernel configuration/build, etc.)
  • Knowledge of the Python scripting language, used for the development of the testing infrastructure.
  • Some Web development skills would be a plus.