How SDL Accelerates Video Output under Linux.

What we might know about the Linux, X-server, is that it offers pure X-protocol to render such features efficiently to the display, as Text with Fonts, Simple GUI-elements, and small Bitmaps such as Icons… But then, when it’s needed to send moving pictures to the display, we need extensions, which serious Linux-users take for granted. One such extension is the Shared-Memory extension.

Its premise is that the X-server shares a region of RAM with the client application, into which the client-application can draw pixels, which the X-server then transfers to Graphics Memory.

For moving pictures, this offers one way in which they can also be ~accelerated~, because that memory-region stays mapped, even when the client-application redraws it many times.

But this extension does not make significant use of the GPU, only of the CPU.

And so there exists something called SDL, which stands for Simple Direct Media Layer. And one valid question we may ask ourselves about this protocol, is how it achieves a speed improvement, if it’s only installed on Linux systems as a set of user-space libraries, not drivers.

(Updated 10/06/2017 : )

Continue reading How SDL Accelerates Video Output under Linux.

I have now installed ‘xine’ on my Linux tablet.

In this earlier posting, I had written that I’ve installed Linux on an older tablet of mine, that being my Samsung Galaxy Tab S, First Generation, with only 16GB of storage.

In order to do so, I used the (non-rooted) applications from Google Play, ‘GNURoot’ and ‘XSDL’.

One feature which the author of ‘XSDL’ pointed out, is the fact that we may download a shared library to run under Linux, which when preloaded, makes the shared-memory extension available, for the purpose of running one application. By default pure X-server protocol does not have this, even though any half-decent Linux system has shared memory extension, X-Video extension, and beyond that, ‘vdpau‘, to allow fast video playback.

One Linux application which I had been using this way, was ‘gnome-mplayer’ , for which I had also written a shell-script, that preloads the shared-memory library. The video-player application was launching and running fine, but I’m no longer convinced that it was ever benefiting from shared memory. More specifically, we can set in the preferences of the player application, to use ‘X11′ as its video output-mode, and ‘pulseaudio’ as its audio output-mode.

Literally, selecting X11 in this way, does not mean shared memory as the output-mode, although the player could have bee negotiating with the (fake) X-server over this parameter…

So. To make sure I’d be obtaining the full benefit of shared memory, when playing back video-streams more seriously, I next proceeded to install ‘xine-ui’. It is highly-configurable, in that we can choose shared memory video-output explicitly.

Continue reading I have now installed ‘xine’ on my Linux tablet.

Continuing to Troubleshoot my Graphics Chip

The computer named ‘Phoenix’ has now been running for 6 days and 19 hours. It is approaching the point, where recently it used to crash. I have suspected that my graphics chip might be the problem, and that more specifically, this might have happened, because the graphics chip is only supposed to take 128MB of shared RAM according to the BIOS, but according to which it has been allocated 256MB, by the Linux software. It is an outdated graphics chip, which I have written about here.

Under Linux we have numerous tools that give us information about our machines, including the ‘‘ here:


I have already written that I cannot take the 70MB of shared RAM as an exact figure, of how much VRAM the chip is taking, which is actually system memory in this case, because there could be other processes using shared memory in some way. Yet, this is still an approximate estimate, and, since the amount being indicated is 70MB, the total amount of shared memory taken by my graphics chip, cannot be greater than 71MB.

This basically rules out one hypothesis for what might have been happening. Under normal use, the chip will not need more than 128MB.

Now, the fact that I have installed a new case fan, may or may not protect me from future crashes, since my other main hypothesis was, ‘Something could have been overheating on the motherboard.’

(Edit 02/14/2017 : )

And this is what my shared memory looked like today, 8 days and 23 hours after the latest reboot:


( 59+ MB – Stable )



I question the amount of VRAM on Phoenix.

I am still contemplating, why the server-box I name ‘‘ was crashing, and my attention keeps coming back to the graphics chip. Before this computer was resurrected, it was running in 32-bit mode, as ‘‘. At that time, it only had 2GB of RAM. But now it runs in 64-bit mode, with 4GB of RAM.

When I boot, the BIOS message still tells me that it has 128MB of shared memory, for the graphics chip. But strangely enough, the piece of text I pasted into this posting, reads that the graphics driver has set aside 256MB of VRAM, near the top of the 4GB of physical addresses. I did not know that the kernel can override a BIOS setting in this way, let us say just because processing has been switched to 64-bit mode.

One mishap which could naively go wrong, is that the legacy driver, unaware of the specifics of this motherboard, could be allocating 256MB of shared memory, but that physically, the hardware cannot share past the address ‘‘. That is, the address ‘‘ may have become forbidden territory for the graphics card. It is however uncommon, that the programmers of kernel-space modules, would make such a simple mistake.

This is a 64-bit system, which only accepts up to 4GB of RAM, thus only possessing 32-bit physical addresses, to go with its 64-bit virtual addresses.

According to this screen-shot:


I only have 3.74GB of RAM available to the system, instead of 4GB. The reason for this, is the fact that 256MB have in fact been reserved for the graphics chip. By itself this would seem to suggest, that the allocation has succeeded.

Also, the fact that 49.26MB of shared memory was momentarily being indicated, is not too telling, because several types of processes could be using shared memory for some purpose. This feature does not only exist, for user-space processes to make texture images available to the graphics card.

Continue reading I question the amount of VRAM on Phoenix.